NEW YORK — HOPE Week has been such a hit that it was time for a 10-year reunion at Yankee Stadium.
As the New York Yankees began their annual week of surprise events to assist and illuminate various charity organizations, the team hosted more than 200 past participants for a fun afternoon and evening at the ballpark Monday.
HOPE Week alumni from a program that began in 2009 filled four stadium suites for lunch while the Bronx Bombers got set to play the Tampa Bay Rays. Children and honorees took part in field-day style carnival games and whiffle ball with Yankees players in the outfield. Later, they toured the Yankees Museum and Monument Park, then stayed to watch batting practice and the game.
"I was out there today. It's fun just to see some of the stories, some of the organizations keeping going, some of the kids that we helped doing well," said veteran pitcher CC Sabathia, with the Yankees since their media relations staff put together the first HOPE Week a decade ago.
"One kid graduated with his Masters — I got a chance to meet him in 2012. So it's fun, man, to see just the impact that we have on the community and the smiles that we can put on people's faces. It just makes it all worth it."
HOPE Week alumni — the HOPE stands for Helping Others Persevere and Excel — were recognized on the field during a pregame ceremony. Members of Daniel's Music Foundation, saluted in 2011, performed the national anthem.
Throughout the history of the program, the Yankees say they've recognized people or groups from seven countries and 10 states. They've donated more than 4,500 tickets and nearly $900,000 to honorees and their related charities.
Celebrity swimsuit models, hip-hop artists and WWE stars have participated in creative events that occurred at places from the Empire State Building, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the New York Stock Exchange to "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
By now, all the Yankees' minor league teams participate as well.
"It's become a great thing, and we do it organization-wide," Sabathia said. "It makes it a lot of fun. It makes it better for when the kids come up here, they know what to expect. They know what's expected of them giving back-wise, and it just makes it easier for all the players I think."
Four more unique events are scheduled for Tuesday through Friday this week, including a fashion show for pediatric cancer patients and an adaptive bicycle giveaway for a surprised teenager with special needs. By the end of this week, the Yankees say they will have had 53 unique honorees and 55 event days, including the 5-year reunion.
Sabathia recalled his favourite memory from a couple years back — baking cookies for an organization that helps send sick children and their families on fun trips.
"We're here with each other eight, nine months out of the year. So to do different things together, bring some joy, helps a lot," he said.
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