H.O.P.E. WEEK INITIATIVE – June 7, 2012

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June 7, 2012

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


The Children’s Home story begins in 1892, in a small frontier village in Florida, when as recorded by history, Miss Carrie Hammerly began tending to orphaned and abandoned children.

In 1922, the ELKS donated $100,000 towards the restoration of the aging Home.

During 2012, The Children’s Home celebrates 120 years of history in Tampa, Florida.

The Flagpole: The Flagpole was constructed in 1922, it is 80 years old. On it is a plaque in honor of Marty Lawrence, a young man who was an orphan and who was killed in the line of duty in Vietnam. Because The Children’s Home was the only family he knew, he was honored with the plaque.

Situated on an 88 acre, Academy like setting, The Children’s Home features six cottages, an administration building, a playground and an in campus school. The cottages were named after the prominent philanthropist families of the era in Tampa; Constantino Garcia Lopez Cottage, Conn Cottage, Davis Cottage, Lowry Cottage, Lykes Cottage and the MacFarland Cottage.

With the number of children entering foster care on the rise, The Children’s Home has launched a number of prevention and intervention programs with the aim to strength families in the community. The Children’s Home serves nearly 13,000 children and adults each year in the Tampa Bay Area with programs ranging from residential treatment, to school readiness and vocational education efforts to kinship care.

Kinship Care: Families headed by grandparents sharing their homes with their grandchildren when the children are displaced from their parents because of abuse or neglect. More than 4.8 million children live with grandparents. About 830,000 of these grandparents are age 60 or older.

The following words on a plaque greet all visitors at the entrance to the William MacInnes Activities Center at The Children’s Home:

“Lives of great men (women) all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time……….” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

There are many indications that the “Boss” of the New York Yankees, George M. Steinbrenner III, left his footprints at The Children’s Home.

On the fourth day of the Yankees H.O.P.E. Week Initiative, Alex Cotto presented the players of the Gulf Coast League to The Children’s Home. Cotto advised that Mark Newman, Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations, believes “getting our Yankees players started in community service should start early, at the Rookie level”.

The community service team included; catcher, Jackson Valera (Venezuela), infielder, Jake Anderson, outfielder, Exicardo Cayones (Venezuela), pitchers, Jose Campos (Venezuela), Giovanny Gallegos (Mexico), Dawerd Cruz (Dominican Republic), Conor Mullee, Brandon Braboy, and the only ambidextrous pitcher in professional baseball, Patrick Venditti, on rehab. from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Because of the severe rain storms in Tampa, The Children’s Home, Recreation Coordinator, Chris Boulanger teamed the youths and the GCL players in the MAC Activities Center, where they spent time shooting hoops. The players also enjoyed playing video games with the youths. It was the final day of school for the children, so, afterwards, they all enjoyed a pizza party.

In Kind Donations & Volunteer Recruitment Manager, Rachelle Gyurke, provided an overview of the Children’s Home. We were introduced to Shirley Lowry, Learning Center and Vocational Specialist, who offered information of the “Virtual School”. It is a place where the children go for tutoring, computer usage and art. The Learning Center has a small library and a special area dedicated for reading books.

For others in the Yankees group, a visit was allowed into the cottage dedicated to “Constantino Garcia Lopez”. We observed how ten children per cottage live in a homelike environment; bedrooms, recreation room, kitchen, dining room, bathrooms and laundry room. It held a relaxed atmosphere.

Among the things the children miss the most, “Not being able to bring friends home from school”, and “Playing on a Little League Team”. (Over 80% in The Children’s Home have never participated in organized sports).

In the cottages, with the assistance of an adult “Primary”, the children learn how to take care of themselves from personal care, to room cleanliness and laundry. Besides schooling, the children receive therapy on a daily basis with the HOPE to return them to their families or foster care.

One child’s story:
His name is Chris. He is 10 years old and stands, perhaps 3” tall. He is in the 3rd grade, but, “is working hard to pass on to the 5th grade”. We asked him a couple of questions;
Which is your favorite team? “The Tampa Yankees”.
The Tampa Yankees, how come? “My grandmother used to take me to the games, but she died”.
Do you have a favorite football team? “The Buccaneers”.
What are you going to be when you grow up? “Cool”.
Cool? Why? “So that I can wear nice shirts and pants”.
What else do you want to be when you grow up? “A coach” and he added “I’m really fast”.
If you could have anything you want right now, what would it be? “A pair of shoes without holes”.
What do you miss the most? “I miss my Mom”.
Why are you here? “Because I hurt my brother”.
I ended the conversation with the child, but not before he said he liked the way I talked.
I enjoyed his spirit.

H.O.P.E. Helping Others Persevere and Excel – The Children’s Home

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