NEW YORK -- Every summer for the past five seasons, there have been sign-up sheets affixed to a wall of the Yankees' clubhouse, silently seeking commitments of participation as the club's award-winning HOPE Week program approaches.
For Jason Zillo, the Yankees' director of media relations, the speed in which those pieces of paper have been covered with the signatures of big leaguers is a sure indication that HOPE Week is succeeding in its mission.
"All we ever need to know is that when we put the sign-up sheet up, the same day that it's up, almost every name is on it in less than 24 hours," Zillo said. "You know you're doing something right. You can't fool these guys. It's great, because you know they're invested."
The Yankees will celebrate HOPE Week 2013 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on this homestand from Monday through Friday, a unique week-long community program that brings to light five remarkable stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities.
Each day during HOPE Week, the Yankees reach out to an individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support, often at locations in the community.
There are surprise components to the events, and all outreach in the community ultimately culminates with recognition at Yankee Stadium during a Yankees game.
"It's just something I think everybody rallies behind," Zillo said. "It's something where, from ownership to the carpenters to the grounds crew, depending on the story and depending on the event, a lot of people get their hands involved in it.
"When you have a vested interest in something, it makes it more relevant and more important than if you're just sitting on the sidelines. For the most part, over the last four or five years, almost everybody has been involved in some fashion."
This marks the second consecutive year in which the Yankees' six U.S.-based Minor League affiliates will each hold their own HOPE Weeks. Many members of the 25-man big league roster, as well as general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi, have all participated in events that are researched by Zillo and his staff.
"It's basically a year-long process," Zillo said. "We're either being presented with stories from people or we stumble across something that catches our eye in the news. As soon as HOPE Week ends, we start looking forward to the next one. Really, there is no beginning or end. It's a cyclical thing where we look through what ends up being hundreds of worthwhile stories."
At the conclusion of the last three Yankees HOPE Weeks from 2010-12, the Yankees (2010), the Steinbrenner family (2011) and the Yankees' Minor League affiliates (2012), have each been honored with the President's Volunteer Service Award, given "in recognition and appreciation of commitment to strengthening the nation and for making a difference through volunteer service."
The awards were bestowed by the Corporation for National and Community Service, which implements President Barack Obama's call to service.
Obama personally lauded HOPE Week during the Yankees' 2010 visit to the White House, but Zillo said that the most rewarding part of his personal involvement has been that HOPE Week continues to gain momentum and garner interest from the organization, community and the team's fan base.
"It's neat when you get an email from a John Smith in Syracuse who says, 'This is a wonderful thing,'" Zillo said. "At the end of the day, it's great to see the expressions of the people we're hosting these events for and celebrating.
"To me, it reminds me of Christmas morning, where they're surprised and they have this overwhelming sense of happiness and pride. The fact that they're being recognized is really why I do this."