'Stars' collide as Yankees begin HOPE Week

Eighth-grader gets a hand from Mariano and Co. in raising awareness for military families

'Stars' collide as Yankees begin HOPE Week

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- About five years ago, Tom Gallin learned a valuable lesson: His kid's far-fetched ideas might not be as far-fetched as they seem.

In 2011 at just 9 years old, Tom's son, Jake Gallin, saw a segment on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" honoring Blue and Gold Star military families, which either have a member in active duty or lost a loved one in combat. The segment inspired Jake to a point that he wanted to take action, and upon later seeing magnetic car decals on the road, he came up with a plan. When Jake got home, he scribbled a design down for car decals of his own to be sold in the honor of Blue and Gold Star families, the proceeds to be donated to the USO. It was then that Stars for Cars was born.

"I'm like, 'OK, great. This is another thing to do,'" Tom said of his initial reaction to his son's plan. "But if you listen to the kids and follow it for three months, their wacky ideas turn out to be something. And that's what happened here. He saw the show, went right to the computer and started writing a letter and gave it to his third-grade teacher, and she took it seriously and brought it to the principal. And then it started blowing up from there."

HOPE Week

Now an eighth-grader, Jake still helps oversee Stars for Cars, an organization that now spans nationwide and has been featured in more than 100 schools across seven states. To honor Jake and all the awareness he's raised for the armed forces and their families, the New York Yankees joined in on the activities Monday to begin their annual HOPE Week supporting acts and actors of goodwill. Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, as well as Chase Headley, Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and Nick Goody all made the trip to surprise Jake, helping him sell stars outside of New Rochelle's City Hall.

The group also presented the USO with a check for $10,000 from the Yankees to be donated on Jake's behalf as recognition for his work.

Rivera, who is no stranger to either New Rochelle or HOPE Week, couldn't help but gush over how impressed he was with Jake's kindness and well-beyond-his-years acts of care.

2016 HOPE Week gallery: Stars for Cars

"The whole cause is amazing," Rivera said. "[It's impressive for] Jake and the youngsters here to put together this kind of raising funds for people in need, especially those who fight for us: the military. They're fighting for us. It's amazing. I'm proud of him that he put this thing in work."

Though Rivera was easily the most vocal of the group, all of the Yankees seemed to be impressed. Headley even went as far as to say that he wished his kids could have been there, because he wants them to learn from the example that fellow young people don't have to wait until they're adults to make a difference.

As for Jake himself? He couldn't help but feel his jaw drop when he saw the Major Leaguers walking up to help him. That being said, he was comfortable joking around with the players and shared a couple of laughs.

For Jake, a day like Monday beats the alternative. Had he not been hobnobbing with baseball royalty, he would have been taking his eighth-grade Latin final -- a trade he happily accepted.

Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.