NEW YORK -- A cancer diagnosis is filled with one daunting challenge after another -- working through the emotions of the initial diagnosis, speaking with doctors to determine the best course of treatment and then trying to find funds that will cover a seemingly endless stream of medical expenses.
Add in the need for many patients to maintain a family and a household, and the task can become overwhelming. As part of HOPE Week on Tuesday, the Yankees recognized Cleaning for a Reason, a charity that offers complimentary house cleanings to women undergoing treatment for any kind of cancer.
Joe Girardi, Carlos Beltran, Starlin Castro and Jacoby Ellsbury surprised Marybell Ruiz -- who is fighting Stage 4 colon cancer -- at her home in the Bronx on Tuesday morning, where they assisted a volunteer cleaner from Spotless Services before enjoying lunch together.
"The Yankees players were so warm and friendly and made [Ruiz] feel like a million bucks," Sardone said. "When they walked in there and they actually started cleaning her home, she is a huge Yankees fan and her spirits were so lifted. I was amazed at how kind and gentle and genuine they were.
"They really wanted to help her with her house. They wanted it to be clean, they wanted her to feel special today. It just came through in all of their actions, interactions. They were signing baseballs; signing our aprons. They were there for her, they weren't there for themselves."
When Ruiz's children, 12-year-old Masiah and 9-year-old Amaya, returned home from school, they were stunned to see the Yankees quartet in their living room. Girardi's daughter, Lena, also pitched in at the event.
"I think it's great," Girardi said. "I've taken her to the last three or four [HOPE Week events] because I think it's important that she understands the meaning of giving back and what people go through, the hard times and how such a simple idea can blossom into something so beautiful."
Sardone initially had the idea for the foundation in 2003, while working at a cleaning service she owned in Texas. After receiving a call at her office seeking a quote for a house cleaning, the caller responded, "I won't be able to afford that now. I'm undergoing cancer treatment."
The woman hung up before Sardone could ask for her phone number. Sardone decided at that moment she would never turn away a woman going through a cancer treatment.
Since its founding in 2006 in Lewisville, Texas, the organization has helped more than 20,000 cancer patients through the help of more than 1,200 professional cleaning companies across the United States and parts of Canada. Each cleaning service volunteers its time and staff to clean two homes per month, free of cost.
"It's pretty special," Girardi said. "It's something that touched her heart and started with just kind of her doing it herself. It became quite an idea."
Prior to Tuesday's game against the Angels, Sardone and Ruiz threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Sardone said that she hopes being part of HOPE Week will inspire more cleaning companies to participate, as well as raising awareness among those in need of assistance.
"There are so many women that are battling cancer that don't even know this service is available," Sardone said. "It's completely free, and I knew when the Yankees brought some attention to our cause that more women would be helped as a result. Things like HOPE Week will help get the word out."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.