In 2009, the New York Yankees, baseball’s most storied franchise, started the HOPE Week initiative. HOPE, which stands for Helping Others Persevere & Excel, was founded on the belief that acts of goodwill towards your fellow-man have far-reaching effects, much farther than just the initial gesture. Hope Week is about people helping people and there’s no one in a better position to do that than the New York Yankees.
Each day during HOPE Week, the Yankees celebrate one exceptional individual/organization and treat them to a day they will never forget. For their strength through adversity, these honorees get the royal treatment from players like Jorge Posada to Nick Swisher and Russell Martin to the Captain, Derek Jeter, himself. Even former Yankees such as Joe Torre and Bernie Williams join in the festivities!
To see Nick Swisher dancing with kids at a concert for Daniel’s Music Foundation, a not-for-profit organization which provides free music instruction to individuals with disabilities, is touching. To watch A.J. Burnett in the dunking booth at a lemonade-stand charity event held by Megan Ajello, a 17-year old with cerebral palsy and scoliosis, is heartwarming. These are lives touched and changed forever by simple acts of goodwill.
HOPE Week concluded on Friday, July 29, in typical Yankees fashion; in style. The story of John Lahutsky, 21, is both heartbreaking and wonderous. John, who was born prematurely, weighing just two pounds, was tossed into the Russian orphanage system, which labeled him “incurable” due to his cerebral palsy. In the system, he received no education or physical therapy, nor did he ever see outside of the orphanage’s walls. He lived a life of neglect, with little hope of a bright future.
During his time at the orphanage, John befriended Andrei, with whom he shared a crib. Because Andrei was two years younger, John always looked after him, even teaching him how to speak. They had a special bond. In 1997, at the age of 5, Andrei was adopted, leaving John behind. Two years later, thankfully, John, then 9, was adopted and brought to the states, where he developed a love for America’s pastime. Fourteen years later, the Yankees, unbeknownst to either, planned a reunion. The heartfelt reunion, which you’ll need to see for yourself, culminated with a trip to the Central Park Zoo, where the two met up with Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner, as well as a trip to Yankee Stadium, where they both threw out the ceremonious first pitch.
In one week, the Yankees touched thousands of lives through just five acts of goodwill. As these stories continue to be shared, more and more people will be moved.
HOPE Week is a shining example of why The Good In Sports was created; to show the world that athletes and their teams give of themselves to make our communities a better place to live. Kudos to the New York Yankees for their work on this initiative which is surely worthy of a TGiS Gold Star. We can’t wait to see what they have in store next.
To see all of the stories, including the reunion, please visit: