NEW YORK -- They all talk about the magic dry erase board. That's where all the ideas start for the Yankees' media relations department. Some of those ideas wilt away, others develop into something great.
Five years ago, if someone would have asked Jason Zillo, the Yankees' executive director of communications and media relations, where this particular idea was going -- he might have guessed nowhere.
Some teams have devoted a day to charity events. Some players have their own personal charitable causes.
Zillo and his staff wanted to do something different.
In 2009 the Yanks launched HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere and Excel), a week-long initiative that "shines a spotlight on a different individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support," according to their website. This year's sixth annual event began on Monday at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, with a five-year reunion lunch bringing back past honorees who were given a free tour of the museum afterwards.
"This is taking amazing stories of people who make the world a better place, shining light on the difference that they've made -- and it's helped these organizations and it's also in a quiet way rewarded these amazing people," said Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, the Yankees' vice chairperson and general partner. "This reunion means more than anything because it's been neat to see the spirit of it grow. … it's really my favorite week of the year."
Every Yankees player, manager Joe Girardi, general manager Brian Cashman and the entire front-office staff will participate in HOPE Week in some way. For the third year, each of the Yanks' six U.S.-based affiliates will hold its own HOPE Week.
"It slows the world down a little bit and makes us pay attention to what's going on around us," Cashman said. "We get caught up in the rat race known as our daily lives, and we don't realize so much is taking place around us that we need to stop and pay attention too."
Each day from Monday through Friday, the Yankees will reach out to an individual, family or organization they feel is worth of recognition or support, and surprise them with a day of celebrating their accomplishments. The day ends with them being honored at Yankee Stadium.
Some of the past honorees shared their memories on Monday. Many shared stories about how surprised they were thinking they were headed to see the New York City library when instead they were headed to Yankee Stadium. Or when Mariano Rivera brought them a birthday cake, or when Derek Jeter showed up on a bus with pizzas for everyone.
Many of the people who were running nonprofit organizations thanked the team for the exposure they received by the Yanks taking time to recognize them. It informed other people who wanted to help the cause and made people suffering the same problem aware that there are others just like them.
"This five-year anniversary lets us check back in on some of these stories, and see how much they've benefited and grown their own organizations and own causes," said David Cone, a former Yankees pitcher and YES Network announcer. "It really has had a remarkable impact."
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.