On Monday, the Yankees kicked off their second annual HOPE (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) Week, an initiative born of the organization's dedication to community through which remarkable stories are highlighted with the intent of inspiring others.
The story of the Dyksen family of North Haledon, N.J., was brought to light on Monday. The Dyksens, by virtue of their involvement in Healing the Children, have hosted 13-year-old Jorge Grajales, a quadruple amputee, approximately nine months per year since he was 3 years old so that he could receive the medical attention necessary to meet the needs of his condition, as well as a better education.
The opportunity to be part of HOPE Week, however, was not necessarily in the Dyksens' plans originally -- they just wanted to give Jorge a chance to meet one his favorite baseball players and a fellow Panamanian.
"We went to a Yankees game on Memorial Day," said John Dyksen, Jorge's foster father. "About three weeks before the game, I sent a letter to Mariano [Rivera], and I copied several people in the front office, asking if there was any possibility if we could meet Mariano before the game, and it turned into this. They got a hold of us and said they were interested in Jorge's story and maybe have him be a part of HOPE Week. That's how it all happened -- with a letter to Mariano."
That letter evolved into a special day for Jorge, who was treated to a surprise backyard pool party, attended by his family, friends, and, of course, the Yankees. Among the Bronx Bombers in attendance were Rivera, Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, Dustin Moseley, bullpen coach Mike Harkey, hitting coach Kevin Long and a handful of front-office personnel.
"It's a privilege and pleasure to be here today," said Rivera. "[Jorge] can't stop laughing, can't stop smiling. What we do -- not just what we do, but what we get -- from this week is priceless. We are the ones who come out blessed. It's great to be here, not only because Jorge is from Panama, but because he has charisma. The way he lives life. He loves to play soccer, he loves to swim. But I love being here, being in the presence of an amazing kid."
HOPE Week is an award-winning community-based program in its second year. After its inaugural run, HOPE Week was recognized at the 11th Annual National Sportsmanship Awards in St. Louis in November 2009, with particular recognition going to HOPE Week's work with Camp Sundown participants, who cannot be exposed to UV light due to a genetic disorder. When the Yankees visited the White House on April 26 to celebrate their 27th World Series title, President Barack Obama announced the return of HOPE Week in 2010.
"It was always a dream of mine to help people on a grand scale," said Yankees media relations director Jason Zillo. "We dream big. We try to think of things that no one else would think of doing. It's rewarding, and it's a really ambitious project. It's like that pinch on your forearm when you see moments like this -- you see something wonderful and you embrace it."
Dan Mennella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.