Established in 1996 with help from his father, Charles, and mother, Dorothy, Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation has awarded more than $16 million in grants to create and support signature programs and activities that motivate young people to "Turn 2" healthy lifestyles.
Thursday's event acknowledged the foundation's 2011 "MVP," New York City public schools chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, as well as this year's "MVP" honoree, Simona Vareikate, a 2007 product of the shortstop's Jeter's Leaders program who recently graduated from Northeastern University.
Other guests included Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, former Knicks star John Starks and a host of Yankees that also included Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, taking a break before Friday's Subway Series opener at Citi Field.
"You know the guy -- he's always helping people who need help," Cano said. "Why not support him? It's important to him because he's always talking about it. It's really good. Those are the kinds of guys you want to follow."
The after-dinner entertainment was provided by four-time Grammy Award winners Boyz II Men, who also performed at Jeter's golf event two years ago and rank as one of the captain's favorite acts.
"They were my group back in the day. Everyone listened to Boyz II Men," Jeter said.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings was a guest at the event, and having grown up in Kalamazoo, Mich., he has heard plenty about Jeter's success on and off the field. Jennings said that now that he has a foundation of his own, it is a benefit to see how Turn 2 conducts business up close.
"He set the bar in our hometown, obviously with the success that he was able to have athletically," Jennings said. "The more he got into his [career], he started to give back even more. His charity lifted people up and made sure that it wasn't just him having success; others were able to have the same opportunity to have success. He set the bar and we kind of followed suit."
The concept of the Turn 2 Foundation came to Jeter as he was in Detroit with his father back in 1996, as the rookie shortstop thought aloud about the charities he'd heard childhood hero Dave Winfield attached his name to. The resulting Turn 2 school programs, summer camps, baseball clinics and other activities have helped thousands of children in the years since.
"Derek has done this for so many years here and in Tampa, and it's a great cause," said former Yankees slugger Tino Martinez. "I enjoy coming out to support it. It's amazing that it has gone on this long and success it's had, and how many kids it has affected over the years. For him to keep doing it year after year with his parents and his sister, it's a lot of work. It's a great accomplishment."
Jeter said that his favorite aspects of having a foundation attached to his name are when parents of Turn 2 graduates come back and tell his family how much his support has meant years down the line.
It also never hurts to lend a hand on the ballfield. One of Jeter's enduring memories came from a Jeter-sponsored youth team in the New York area, as Jeter's support boosted what was shaping up to be a rather inexperienced roster.
"These kids had never played and lost every game," Jeter said. "You know, you get mercy-ruled. They never scored a run. I came and was the surprise coach for a day, and they scored a run. You would have thought they'd won the World Series."