H.O.P.E. WEEK INITIATIVE – June 6, 2012

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June 6, 2012

By Raquel Julich
Foreign Radio
Special to Gulf Coast Yankees
Tampa, Florida


Shriners Hospitals for Children is a health care system of twenty-two hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. All care and services are provided regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

Shriners Hospitals for Children provides treatment for a full range of congenital and acquired orthopedic conditions. Some of the most commonly treated conditions are clubfoot, limb deficiencies, deformities and discrepancies, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease), and orthopaedic problems related to spinal bifida, cerebral palsy, dwarfism and muscular dystrophy.

On Wednesday, June 6th, the third day of H.O.P.E. Week in Tampa, Alex Cotto, Ron Dock and the Yankees Gulf Coast players paid an early morning visit to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

From the heavy box of goody bags that the players took turns in carrying, it was obvious that they had raided the “room of giveaways” at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The group of players included; pitching prospects Pat Venditte, Cesar Vargas from Mexico, and Steve Evarts, also, infielders, Abiatal Avelino and Jorge Mateo.

On arrival at Shriners, the Yankees group was greeted by Tara Deering, Childlife Specialist. She briefed the players with information of the children the players would interact with.

The players’ first introduction was a five year old child with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Christian was all smiles as he received the goody bag from Ron Dock and was thrilled at finding a Yankees cap. The family was from New York. One of the players asked Christian how he was doing and the Mother coached the youngster to say, “I’m going to keep on winning”. “We’re winners and winners don’t lose”.

The visits continued, guided by Tara Deering, the players approached a room dedicated as the “Wade Boggs Room”. The patient’s mother seated at the bedside did not want the players to enter and greet the youngster. Nonetheless, Ron Dock handed a nurse the bag with the Yankees items. As Ron Dock walked away, the father of the boy could be heard softly saying “thank you”. The players continued along the corridor of the POPS Unit (Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services).

From observing the manner in which Alex Cotto and Ron Dock guided their players, it was obvious that the involvement of these Yankees men in the community is not a new thing. Their knowing the importance of the goody bags while observing each child’s reaction and recognizing that conversation with the children should be kept light. A New York Yankees cap is a magical thing.

Eventually, the players were led into the most whimsical of rooms, The Fish Bowl. A great room in the round, as if under the sea with colorful fish and ocean creatures. The Fish Bowl is used for daily children’s activities, they were told, the most special of them “The Monster Mash Bash”, held yearly at Halloween.

The players visited a 16 year old girl, injured when riding on the back of her father’s motorcycle. Along the way, they were asked to cheer a child fearing surgery on this day. The GCL pitcher Pat Venditte encouraged the youngster with conversation about his own surgery.

When the question was asked if Shriners Hospitals for Children treated children from other countries, the players were introduce to a child from Panama, Alberto, suffering with “Paralisis Celebral Espatica”. The youth was encased in braces and casts. You can imagine the family’s happiness at meeting and taking pictures with the Yankees, the team of Mariano Rivera. The players from Mexico and the Dominican Republic spoke in Spanish to Alberto and the family.

They met Kala, afflicted with “Posteria Spinal Fisure” and Christian from Peru, a patient suffering with Osteogenesis Imperfecta.

The visits ended with a walk into a room of a brother and sister; an eight year old brother, the patient, with the six year old sister in bed by his side, to quote their Mother “making him happy”.

During the course of their Player Development, the Yankees Gulf Coast League players had already received an early introduction to the terminology of baseball injuries and the variety of treatments. On this day, every player in the group was quieted by the enormity of the afflictions of the children they visited and the courage the children exhibited through their smiles.

H.O.P.E. – as presented to and by the players of the Yankees Gulf Coast League.

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