The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

HOPE Week Thursday: Hunterdon Huskies Contender Cheerleaders08.20.15

HOPE Week continues today with the Yankees reaching out to the Hunterdon Huskies Contender Cheerleaders in New City, N.Y. Joe Espada, Andrew Miller, Michael Pineda, Chris Capuano and Chasen Shreve will surprise the cheerleaders at the Jawonio Center and have a picnic lunch with them today. Tonight, prior to first pitch, Yankees players will run out of the dugout through a cheer line formed by the Huskies Contender Cheerleaders. From the Yankees, here’s a little about the Huskies Contender Cheerleaders.

Hope 4Five years ago, Debbie House of Clinton Township, N.J., took a passion for helping special needs children and created an outlet for local young girls to shine. While watching the televised national cheerleading competition a few years ago, she noticed teams of special needs cheerleaders performing between competitive routines.

Inspired by the idea, House, who does not have a special needs child, approached officials from the Hunterdon Huskies cheerleading program to gauge interest in creating their own special needs cheer team. The organization loved the idea and decided to create a team for the following year, with House serving as head coach.

In its first year, the Hunterdon Huskies Contender Cheerleaders consisted of six girls, persevering through Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or autism. Since then, the High Bridge, N.J.-based squad has added members each year and now features a dozen high school-aged young women. The Contenders are one of five cheer squads within the Huskies organization, which also sponsors eight football teams, including one for special needs boys.

Each August, the Contender team begins its season with bi-weekly practices, and performs cheers at Huskies home football games at Union Forge Park in the fall. It all builds up to their annual December trip to the 2015 American Youth Cheer National Championships in Kissimmee, Florida.

The program gives the girls an opportunity to escape their challenges, even if only for a few hours each week. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for the girls to form strong friendships through an activity they love doing.


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Video: Yankees surprise son of Charleston shooting victim08.17.15

Here’s video of Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances on the TODAY Show this morning to surprise tonight’s HOPE Week honoree Chris Singleton. The introduction of Singleton is pretty emotion. Impressive kid.

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HOPE Week Monday: Chris Singleton08.17.15

Welcome to HOPE Week, everyone. Each day for the next five days, the Yankees will reach out to various individuals, families and organizations, supporting and highlighting some good folks doing good things. The week begins with a young baseball player who’s been through too much this summer. Here are the details from the Yankees:

hope1The Yankees will kick off their seventh annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Monday, August 17, with the story of Chris Singleton. Currently a baseball player at Charleston Southern University, Chris was a normal student and college athlete when tragedy forever changed his life.

His mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (pictured with Chris), 45 – a minister at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., and speech pathologist and girls track coach at Goose Creek High School – was among the nine parishioners who lost their lives in a premeditated hate crime at the church this past June.

Following a memorial at his former high school the day after the shooting, Chris said about the perpetrator, “We already forgive him for what he’s done. There’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

Chris’ positivity has galvanized a community. Despite losing the only parent who took an active role in his life, he continues to radiate wisdom beyond his 19 years. On Twitter on July 22 — more than a month after the tragedy — he posted, “The good outweighs the bad even on your worst days.”

Chris, along with his sister Camryn, 15, his brother Caleb, 12, and his college baseball coach and mentor, Stuart Lake, of Charleston Southern University, will be surprised on Monday morning on the set of the TODAY Show in Rockefeller Center by Yankees players Dellin Betances, Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez.

He will then be joined at One World Observatory for a private tour and lunch by Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Willie Randolph, Masahiro Tanaka, Justin Wilson and Chris Young before returning to Yankee Stadium where he will take part in batting practice with the team and more.

Photo provided by the Yankees


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HOPE Week goes on the Today show07.29.11

Here’s the latest announcement from the Yankees about today’s HOPE Week event. Best one yet? Might be. Here’s the press release from the Yankees.

The New York Yankees are proud to continue HOPE Week 2011 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Friday by celebrating 21-year-old John Lahutsky.

In the company of Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, John will be reunited on the TODAY show with Andrei Sullivan, 19, who was his best friend from the Moscow orphanage they grew up in. John and Andrei have not seen each other in person since Andrei was adopted in 1997.

Neither of the young men know they are about to be reunited. John has been told he is going on the show solely to speak about his experiences in the orphanage, and Andrei (whose entire family has been flown in from Michigan) has been told that his hotel gave his family free tickets to see the TODAY show.

Following their initial reunion, John and Andrei will take an hour-long NBC Studio Tour before joining Yankees players Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and Hector Noesi and Yankees coaches Kevin Long and Larry Rothschild in touring the Central Park Zoo followed by an outdoor lunch on the grounds. In the evening, they will be guests of the team for its 7:05 game vs. Baltimore at Yankee Stadium.

Please note that this reunion would not be possible without the support of Delta Air Lines, which has provided complimentary air transportation for the entire Sullivan family, including Andrei, his parents, Tom and Roslyn, his brother and sister, John and Sarah, and two teenage Russian orphans, Mikhail and Alexander, whom the family is hosting in their Michigan home this summer.


John Lahutsky, 21, was born prematurely at 6 months, weighing just two pounds. At 18 months, he was placed by his birth mother in the Russian orphanage system, which considered him an “incurable” due to his cerebral palsy.

His “Baby House” offered him no education or physical therapy. From the time he entered the facility until he was 5 years old, he was never taken outside the walls of the building.

Despite the horrendous treatment he received, he always looked after his best friend in the unit, Andrei, even teaching Andrei how to talk after picking up Russian from the few nurses that treated him with decency. Andrei was adopted in 1997, but John had to wait until 1999 before being adopted by Paula Lahutsky of Bethlehem Township, Penn., who read about him in a church newsletter.

John recently wrote a book, The Boy from Baby House 10, which details his experiences in the Russian orphanage system. His hope is that by telling his story, he can prevent the abuses he suffered from happening to others.


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HOPE Weeks sets up shop on Staten Island07.28.11

It’s an off day for the Yankees, but HOPE Week continues this morning on Staten Island where a lemonade stand is about to to get the Yankees treatment. Here’s the announcement from the Yankees. This one should be pretty incredible, and not only because there are supposed to be Sports Illustrated swimsuit models in attendance.

The New York Yankees are proud to continue HOPE Week 2011 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Thursday by celebrating Megan Ajello.

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and Yankees players Robinson Cano, A.J. Burnett, David Robertson, Andruw Jones, Boone Logan, and Eduardo Nunez, along with coaches Mick Kelleher and Rob Thomson, as well as advance scout/head video coordinator Charlie Wonsowicz will visit Megan at her Staten Island home to help her raise money for the Special Olympics.

Brian Cashman along with Yankee Stadium carpenters will surprise Megan at her Staten Island home prior to her sixth-annual street-side charity lemonade sale with a custom-built lemonade stand. Yankees players, coaches and special guests will join her Staten Island community in helping Megan raise money throughout the day.

Food, karaoke and music will fill the street, and a dunk tank will be brought in for neighbors to dunk Yankees players for charity.


Megan Ajello, 17, is her neighborhood’s fiercest volunteer and community activist, donating presents from her Sweet 16 to Marine Toys for Tots and fighting for handicapped-accessibility for her local playground.

Her biggest battle, however, is against cerebral palsy and scoliosis, which have necessitated six major surgeries, including a spinal fusion. Since 2006 she has hosted a charity lemonade stand outside her home, which has grown from a gathering of neighbors raising a few hundred dollars to a must-attend event for people from as far away as upstate New York, which raised $4,000 last summer.


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Haitian refugees experience HOPE Week07.27.11

The latest Yankees announcement for the third day of HOPE Week was kind of lost in the shuffle because the team played a day game this afternoon, but here are the details from the Yankees.

The New York Yankees are proud to continue HOPE Week 2011 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Wednesday by celebrating the Haitian refugees, aged 7 to 13, taken in by Ss. Joachim and Anne’s School in Queens, N.Y. following the country’s devastating January 2010 earthquake.

The Yankees will host the Haitian refugees for Wednesday’s 1:05 p.m. Yankees game, after which Yankees players CC Sabathia, Jorge Posada, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, along with Yankees coaches Mike Harkey and Tony Pena will join them for a Gray Line New York double-decker bus tour of Manhattan leaving directly from Yankee Stadium.

Stops will include the United Nations, where representatives of the body will greet the children, followed by the Empire State Building, where the children will participate in a ceremonial lighting of the building followed by a photo opportunity with the Yankees from the observation deck. The children and Yankees will then reboard the bus to visit Times Square.

The final stop will be at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Archbishop Timothy Dolan will give a tour of the building and have dessert with the children in his private residence.


For 15 child refugees who endured the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, it was the loving arms of Ss. Joachim and Anne’s School in Queens Village, N.Y., that took them in.

The children, now aged 7 to 13, arrived in New York with nothing, having lost loved ones and been witness to unspeakable horrors. All have taken to their new home and cherish their opportunity at an education. One child walks 45 minutes each way to school and another, who lost both of his parents, dreams of becoming president of his homeland so he can rebuild his nation. Even the school’s parochial vicar, Rev. Jean-Moise Delva, 34, was not spared tragedy as his Haitian elementary school collapsed, killing the parish priest who was his mentor.


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HOPE Week continues with Tuesday’s Children07.26.11

Here’s the Yankees latest release about today’s HOPE Week event.

The New York Yankees are proud to continue HOPE Week 2011 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Tuesday by celebrating the Tuesday’s Children Mentoring program.

Yankees players Mariano Rivera, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Cory Wade and Steve Garrison along with former Yankees Manager Joe Torre will honor Tuesday’s Children by surprising them at the Beekman Beach Club at the South Street Seaport for lunch, games, and a ride on the Delta Baseball Water Taxi. The boat ride will take mentors and mentees past the Statue of Liberty and on to Yankee Stadium, where they will be the Yankees’ special guests for their 7:05 p.m. game vs. Seattle.


During the tragic day of Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of children lost their parents and thousands of parents lost their children. As the 10-year anniversary of that dark day approaches, the voids created from the losses continue to be immeasurable.

Tuesday’s Children was founded in the year following the terrorist attacks to promote healing and recovery. The organization established a unique mentoring program that has helped to heal still-open wounds. Serving the greater New York tri-state region, its mentorship program supports relationships between affected children and adult role models who themselves have lost family as a result of tragic circumstances. To date, more than 175 children have participated in the program, including 50 who are currently part of active mentoring relationships.

The relationships support the emotional and social growth of the mentees as their mentors share coping skills and act as a shoulder to lean on. The pairs meet at least twice a month, and the get-togethers are informal, involving anything from going to the movies, playing at a park or just hanging out in the house.

For the mentors, the pain of losing a family member did nothing to dry up the reservoir of love in their hearts.

MENTOR OF THE YEAR PRESENTATION: During the beach party on Tuesday, Keith Pryde [R] from Middletown, N.Y., will be honored as Tuesday’s Children’s “Mentor of the Year.” He was matched with 10-year-old Robert in February 2008. One year earlier, Keith lost his sister in the April 2007 Virginia Tech campus shootings. His mentee, Robert, was born a month before his father, a foreign exchange broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed on Sept. 11. Keith and his fiancée, Rebecca, are engaged to be married in September 2012, with Robert set to serve as their ring bearer.


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HOPE Week begins with Daniel’s Music Foundation07.25.11

This is the first day of HOPE Week. As usual, the Yankees have given the media some advance notice about their plans, but the details are embargoed until noon on the day of each event. Here’s the team’s announcement about today’s first event. As always, these are incredible stories.

The New York Yankees are proud to kick off HOPE Week 2011 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Monday by celebrating Daniel Trush and Daniel’s Music Foundation (DMF). Yankees players Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Francisco Cervelli, Hector Noesi and Chris Dickerson will celebrate the honorees by surprising them at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre prior to their Broadway debut. The players will rehearse with DMF singers and musicians, then take to the stage as part of the performance. The Yankees will then invite the group back to Yankee Stadium to sing the national anthem and attend that evening’s 7:05 p.m. game vs. Seattle.

The Yankees will be joined by former Yankee and Latin Grammy Award nominee Bernie Williams, Broadway stars from Anything Goes, Book of Mormon, Catch Me If You Can, Million Dollar Quartet and Wonderland along with other special guests, who will all lend their talents to the performance.


In March 1997, one of five undiagnosed arterial brain aneurysms burst inside the head of then-12-year-old Daniel Trush. When he awoke after a 30-day coma, he could not speak or move, remaining largely incapacitated throughout his 341-day hospital stay.

Music was the most important part of Daniel’s healing process from Day 1. His father, Ken, sang to him in the hospital and kept music constantly playing on a bedside stereo. Upon returning home, Daniel embarked on music therapy classes, which sparked his mind, body and soul.

His transformation was so incredible that in February 2006, his family established Daniel’s Music Foundation (DMF), a not-for-profit organization which provides free music instruction to individuals with disabilities in the five boroughs of New York City. Programs are open to the widest range of individuals possible without limitations on age, disability or talent.

From one five-person class five years ago to 150 people in 26 on-site and three-off site classes today, DMF serves those with such disabilities as blindness, paralysis, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, brain injury and other developmental disabilities. Classes regularly perform outreach at their twice-yearly music celebrations and offer customized performances at schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes.

The entire Trush family participates in DMF, including Ken, who oversees the operations and finances of the foundation, Daniel’s mother Nancy, who supervises the functioning of the classes, and Daniel’s brother Michael, who serves as a mentor and informal counselor to many of the participants. Daniel focuses on the music itself in addition to being the life force of the foundation.

“Daniel could have been a victim,” Ken said. “He could have been a cheerleader, giving motivational speeches about how far he has come. But that Knute Rockne stuff only goes so far. He works with our students every day. He gives those with disabilities a forum where they can prosper and be the people they were meant to be.”


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HOPE Week continues with the Arias sisters08.20.10

On this Friday of HOPE Week, the Yankees are reaching out to the Arias sisters – Johanna and Melida – who have worked through hardships and homelessness to make their lives better through education and hard work. Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli, Sergio Mitre, David Robertson and Tony Pena surprised Melida at her job at Wendy’s this morning, and the group will take both sisters on a surprise shopping spree at DKNY in Manhattan to outfit Melida for her freshman year of college and Johanna for future professional opportunities.

This one’s a pretty powerful. From the Yankees, here’s Johanna and Melida’s story:

For 16 years, the Arias women traveled from boardinghouse to rented room to homeless shelter and back again. While they never had much during that time, they always had each other.

Melida Arias, her older sister, Johanna, and her mother, Maria, were inseparable, pooling their change to put food on whatever makeshift dinner table was in front of them. They never went hungry, even if it meant tuna fish and rice every day for a week at a time.

Despite the obvious hardship of their situation, the sisters’ dedication to academics did not waver, and they remained committed to creating a better life for themselves someday. For many homeless teens, college is a fairy tale in a book kept on a shelf. For Melida and Johanna, it was a fixed object in the distance, becoming clearer and closer every day. If they continued to apply themselves, they would become the first members of their family to go to college.

As a freshman in high school, Melida confided the intimate details regarding her homelessness to fellow classmates, who then posted her personal secrets for the world to read online. Shamed by the gossip of her peers and angered at such a cruel betrayal, Melida decided to rise above the bullying and intimidation. Rather than letting the talk of others steal her self-worth, she left her school and transferred to Bronx Leadership Academy High School, where she immediately thrived in accepting and supportive new surroundings.

With the assistance of the organization Women in Need, the Arias women finally found housing during Melida’s junior year. Ever since, the scars of their experience fade by the day. But their triumph has not come without sacrifice. Soon after Johanna was accepted to Syracuse University two years ago, her mother became physically unable to continue her job as a cab driver. So instead of embarking on what is often described as the best four years of a person’s life, Johanna began working at McDonald’s in a job she still has today.

In June, Melida graduated in the top third of her class at the Bronx Leadership Academy, and she begins the next step of her education next spring with her freshman year at highly regarded Baruch College in Manhattan.

Her compassion is reflected in her course load as she embarks on the road to becoming a school psychologist. Her dream is to help children who are growing up under challenging circumstances, similar to herself.


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More HOPE Week pictures08.19.10

According to the Yankees press release, eight players were supposed to be on the field for this afternoon’s game with kids from the Beautiful People program, which gets disabled and special needs kids into team sports. Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Lance Berkman, Javier Vazquez, Boone Logan and Austin Kearns were supposed to be there along with Yankees coaches Dave Eiland, Mick Kelleher and Rob Thomson and former Yankee David Cone.

Joe Girardi was also there. So was Alex Rodriguez. Joba Chamberlain was running around having more fun than anyone. There were probably others who I missed. The Yankees seemed to be having a great time, and it was all happening while the writers were finishing their stories in the press box. It was really great to watch the Yankees help — and sometimes be told not to help — these kids play baseball.

Here are some Associated Press photos along with three AP photos from yesterday’s HOPE Week event with Mohamed Kamara at the United Nations.

Yankees HOPE Week Baseball

Yankees HOPE Week Baseball

Tigers Yankees Baseball

Tigers Yankees Baseball

Jorge Posada, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain participating in today’s HOPE Week baseball game.

Yankees HOPE Week Baseball

Yankees HOPE Week Baseball

Yankees HOPE Week Baseball

Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson at the UN podium,  group shot of the Yankees with Fatmata Kamara, left, Mohamed Kamara, center, and Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United Nations Shekou M. Touray


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