Jeter hosts 'red carpet' event

Jeter hosts 'red carpet' event

NEW YORK -- One by one, they spilled out of school buses and onto the streets of Manhattan, charging past the flashing yellow lights and into the flickering rows of press photographers.

For members of Derek Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation and its signature programs, this was literally a red-carpet experience. Five hundred New York City children were able to live out their movie star dreams on Thursday, invited to a special screening at the Ziegfeld Theater on West 54th Street.

Invitees were treated to an advance viewing of Columbia Pictures' upcoming release "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep," which opens in theaters on Dec. 25. Jeter said the family-run foundation's success continues to be one of his most important accomplishments.

"It's one of the things that I really look forward to," Jeter said. "When I started the foundation, we never thought it would be as big as it is now. We just left Michigan and we have a lot of things going down in Florida. It's a lot bigger and better than I ever imagined."

Following the movie, the children enjoyed a surprise visit from Jeter, Santa Claus and his "elves" -- the New York Jeter's Leaders, who handed out special gift bags donated by the Yankees and sponsors of the Turn 2 Foundation.

"It's something that means a lot to me and my family," Jeter said. "We've touched a lot of lives."

The bags -- more than 1,500 in all -- were assembled during the foundation's annual holiday party at Yankee Stadium earlier this month.

"A lot of work gets put into this," said Jean Vargas, 15, a graduate of the Turn 2's programs and a volunteer with the Jeter's Leaders. "It's great, because we all have to work together as a team."

Vargas said the experience of spending some time up close with the Yankees shortstop would be an unforgettable one for every child in attendance.

"It's like a relief," Vargas said. "That's your idol and you're seeing him for the first time. I know I was excited when I finally saw him."

The Turn 2 Holiday Express is one of the activities created by Jeter's foundation to reward children who are demonstrating positive behavior, academic excellence and leadership qualities in school and their communities.

Sparked in 1996 by the then-rookie shortstop over pizza in a hotel room with his father, Dr. Charles Jeter, the foundation's mission has been to motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and "turn to" healthy lifestyles.

Since its inception, the Turn 2 Foundation has awarded millions in grants to signature programs as well as existing substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, reaching thousands in the New York City, West Michigan and Tampa areas.

"They teach a lot of positive values, including integrity," said Cristal Montanez, a student at Emerson University and a volunteer with the Jeter's Leaders. "It warms my heart. These little kids are going to grow up to be something great."

Heading into his 13th full season as a member of the Yankees, Jeter said that he has already started to mentally prepare for the next campaign. But with events like Thursday's on the calendar, the seven-time All-Star has plenty to keep him busy until it's time to hit the sun-splashed fields of Tampa.

"Usually, right after the holiday season is when you start focusing," Jeter said. "You start working out early, but after New Year's, you really start getting down to baseball business. We have a couple more weeks to spend some time with the family."

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