The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


HOPE Week: Rockaway Special Athletes

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jul 08, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Welcome to HOPE Week! As always, we’ll post the day-by-day details at times when the team has said it won’t ruin the surprise.

The New York Yankees are proud to kick off HOPE Week 2013 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Monday, July 8, by celebrating Rockaway Special Athletes (RSA), the group’s founder, Joe Featherston, along with St. Camillius/St. Virgilius Parish (the group’s original home) and St. Rose of Lima School (which took the group in after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the St. Camillius gymnasium).

Yankees players Ivan Nova, Zoilo Almonte, Adam Warren, David Adams and Alberto Gonzalez will honor the athletes by joining in one of their get-togethers at St. Rose of Lima School in Rockaway Beach. The Yankees and RSA participants will play games such as kickball, Wiffle ball and basketball in the school gym. After the activities, RSA participants and their families are invited to Yankee Stadium for the 7:05 p.m. game vs. Kansas City. The athletes will watch batting practice from the field and be part of pregame on-field ceremonies.

image00211THE STORY OF ROCKAWAY SPECIAL ATHLETES (RSA)

In 1996, Joe Featherston, then a physical education teacher at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens, was asked to prepare a group of Special Olympians for a track meet at St. John’s University. He gladly accepted and used the opportunity to involve students from his high school to assist with the once-a-week coaching sessions.

His work with the Olympians made him realize that children with disabilities, along with their families, could derive great benefits from having a regular physical and social outlet to take part in. He reached out to now-retired Father James Dunne of St. Camillus-St. Virgilius Parish (SCSVP) in Rockaway Park to see if there were parishioners who wanted to become involved in a weekly gathering for children with disabilities. That fall, the group held its first meeting with eight athletes and six volunteers, and Rockaway Special Athletes was born.

The group gets together weekly to provide recreational activities for children and adults with disabilities. Gatherings include family members of the participants, their friends and student volunteers, many from local high schools.

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy last October, which left the church’s gymnasium inundated with water and in need of significant repair work, Featherston reached out to nearby St. Rose of Lima School, which had been mostly spared by the storm. The Rockaway Special Athletes and their families were thankful for the generosity of St. Rose of Lima and look forward to returning home in September, when reconstruction is completed at SCSVP.

Photo from the Yankees

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