(Last year, Yankees players Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Dellin Betances took part in a kickball game across from Yankees Stadium in honor of the anti-bullying organization No Bully (nobully.org) – Photo by Jason Schott)
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the Yankees HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) initiative, which is rooted in the belief that acts of goodwill provide hope and encouragement to more than just the recipient of the gesture.
This 11th edition of HOPE Week will be held from this Monday, June 17 until the 21st.
On Monday, the week kicks off with a daytime reunion/party on the field at Yankee Stadium featuring the bulk of our honoree alumni.
The following four days, the Yankees will honor new individuals in various locations in New York City and Westchester County that will also involve their players and coaches.
Whenever possible, the Yankees will attempt to personally connect with individuals in the settings of their greatest successes at locations that honor the spirit of their noble endeavors. All outreach in the community ultimately culminates with recognition at Yankee Stadium during a Yankees game.
HOPE Week is about people helping people. The one thing everybody has, no matter their background or financial situation, is time. By involving every one of their players and coaches, along with Manager Aaron Boone, General Manager Brian Cashman, their minor league affiliates and the front-office staff, the Yankees are sending the message that everyone can give of themselves to make their community a better place.
Equally significant during HOPE Week is how the events garner publicity for the highlighted causes and organizations. The greatest challenge facing many not-for-profits is generating interest, awareness and funding for their missions. The Yankees encourage all their fans to get involved.
A little more than 10 years ago, HOPE Week was just an idea being bandied about among media relations staff sitting in the newly
constructed Yankee Stadium.
“Our department had always received a large number of letters from fans and it was clear that there were many everyday people from all walks of life doing extraordinary things,” said Yankees Vice
President of Media Relations Jason Zillo, who conceived of the idea of this landmark community initiative.
“Additionally, in our daily monitoring of the news, we would frequently come across profoundly compelling stories that were
totally unrelated to baseball — stories that made you think, ‘More people need to know about that.’”
With the Yankees embarking on a new era in their history with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, the time was right to start an initiative that could become an annual tradition. With the tremendous support of the Steinbrenner family, HOPE Week was born during that season.
While HOPE Weeks in recent years take months of planning, that first edition was put together in two weeks. Taking the lead from those first honorees, the momentum of a good idea was quickly
followed with focused action to make a dream a reality.
The net result has been 50 events over 10 years, with inspirational individuals celebrated and charities receiving desperately needed exposure.
One group that benefited greatly from hope week was Daniel’s Music Foundation, an organization that uses music instruction as therapy to improve the lives of those with special needs.
“HOPE Week was the tipping point for Daniel’s Music Foundation (DMF),” said Ken Trush. “I distinctly remember during our incredible 2011 HOPE Week day thinking that DMF had to do more — we had to go from a program to an organization. As I look back over the entire experience — which I have done quite often over the past eight years — the one thing that I can say with confidence is that HOPE Week became the springboard for the future of Daniel’s Music.”
Since that time, DMF has tripled its operating budget, served thousands of individuals, and acquired a new 8,700 sq. foot studio in Manhattan that is not only fully accessible, but also barrier-free.
It has grown beyond group classes to hold private lessons and fi eld trips that bring in special education classes to the studio. Additionally, DMF also initiated an Awareness Through Diversity initiative, a free program in which groups, schools, corporations or organizations can volunteer alongside members so they can learn to see the ability in disability.
At the conclusion of each of the last nine years of HOPE Week (2010-18), the Yankees organization — along with each HOPE Week honoree — have been presented with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, given “in recognition and appreciation of commitment to strengthening the Nation and for making a difference through volunteer service.” The award is bestowed by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation in conjunction with the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The Yankees are also proud that, in every year since 2012, each of their U.S.-based affiliates have held their own HOPE Weeks, truly making this initiative one that the entire organization stands behind in words and in action.
In their new book about the Yankees’ 2009 championship team, Mission 27, Mark Feinsand and Brian Hoch write, “The 2009 season marked the introduction of the Yankees’ HOPE (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) Week initiative, which sprang to life from a whiteboard in the office of Jason Zillo, the team’s director of media relations.
“Zillo received enthusiastic approval for the program after presenting it to the Steinbrenners, president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost, and general manager Brian Cashman. A schedule was constructed for five consecutive weekdays during a homestand that summer, during which players, coaches, and front-office personnel would join forces to bring attention to a different individual, family, or organization worthy of public recognition and support. ‘It was something near and dear to my heart, and I was so proud of the organization to embrace such an outside-of-the-box community concept,’ Zillo said. ‘For all of them to say, ‘Run, don’t walk, on tackling this,’ it was a neat moment in my career because you don’t know the type of feedback that you’re going to get outside of my office.’
“Each day was designed so that the honorees could share their inspirational stories with players, fans, and the media while being surprised with a day of their dreams tailored especially for them. The outreach typically took place at a location within the community, culminating with a visit to the stadium and – assuming the Yankees win – a chance to join the postgame handshake line.
“That first year the Yankees visited the apartment of a Washington Heights couple devoted to mentoring at-risk youth, held a baseball clinic for children with cerebral palsy, hosted a surprise anniversary party for a military veteran with ALS, turned their diamond into an overnight carnival for children with allergies to sunlight, and helped two young men with developmental disabilities deliver mail at a Manhattan law firm. ‘That started with the players. I know their buy-in and willingness could make it what it’s become,’ Zillo said. ‘When I addressed the team and explained it to them, to watch them walk up to the sign-up sheet and sign up for the different events was something that I won’t forget.’”
For more information regarding the evolution of HOPE Week, please visit the Honoree Archive tab at www.hopeweek.com. Video segments from the YES Network’s Emmy-winning HOPE Week Remembered series detail the compelling stories of every HOPE Week honoree along with highlights from their event day with the Yankees.