By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK (SPORTS)- For the seventh consecutive year, Yankee Stadium and other sites in the New York metropolitan area will be the location for events connected with HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel). The thoughtful idea was originally promulgated by Jason Zilo, Executive Director of Communications and Media Relations of the New York Yankees.
The events are designed to encourage and honor those coping with difficulties in their lives and those individuals and organizations that exist to help others. There is also an intention to encourage those who see and read about these stories to become involved in volunteering to help others in need.
Each day of the special week focuses on a separate inspiring story. Monday, August 17, was the first day of this year’s HOPE Week. Chris Singleton, a 19-year-old student and member of the baseball team at Charleston Southern University, was surprised by the appearance of three Yankees heroes, Dellin Betances, Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez, at the TODAYshow early that morning.
Singleton’s mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of nine victims who were murdered in a hate crime in Charleston this year while attending a church service. The 45 year old was a minister at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church and a speech pathologist and girl’s track coach at Goose Creek High School. Her son’s reaction, like the family members of some of the other victims, was uplifting. He commented, “Love is stronger than hate. She loved everyone. We already forgive him [the alleged murderer] for what he’s done.”
Singleton was involved in a full day of events. He was given a private tour of the One World Observatory and a luncheon with Yankees Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Willie Randolph, Masahiro Tanaka, Justin Wilson, and Chis Young.
In the evening at Yankee Stadium, the college baseball player participated in batting practice with the Yankees. Later, he and his younger brother, Caleb-12, and sister, Camryn-15, came to home plate with bench coach Rob Thomson to give to the umpires and the Twins’ manager and they threw out the ceremonial first pitches and also met with the media at a press conference at the Stadium.
He commented, “I don’t know if I’m a role model, but I feel good when somebody says that to me.” After being congratulated by superstars Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter of the Twins, the teenager remarked, “Honestly, I was in shock at first, but now it feels like a dream.”
Each year since 2010, the Yankees have been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by the President’s Council Service and civic Participation in cooperation with the Corporation for National and Community Service “in recognition and appreciation of commitment to strengthening the nation and for making a difference through volunteer service.”