Cause Celeb highlights a celebrity’s work on behalf of a specific cause. This week, we speak with New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi about his involvement with HOPE Week. HOPE stands for "Helping Others Persevere and Excel." The week-long program honors five individuals, families or organizations worthy of recognition or support, in hopes of motivating others to get involved in their communities. All organizations related to the honorees receive $10,000 each to continue their good works.
Each player on the Yankees’ active roster, coaching staff, general manager Brian Cashman, former players and managers also participate in the events. This year, HOPE Week ran from July 25-29. The events took place throughout New York City.
Interviewed by Lauren Busch, NBC News.
Q: What does HOPE Week mean to you?
Girardi: I think it means a lot … from everyone to the Steinbrenner family, Jason Zillo (Yankees director of communications and media relations), coming together, where we have a platform, and giving people hope — which I think is so important to life, because I think it is what allows you to get up every day and have a good day, and to have something to look forward to. And to recognize people who do extraordinary things, that aren’t always recognized, to show them how much we appreciate how much they care about our community.
Q: What is your role within the program?
Girardi: My role has been the same basically the three years. Jason talks to me about the different days, and we talk a little bit about what days pitchers are pitching so that we can use them on days they’re not pitching, but I am just part of it like anyone else.
I have a day that I spend with people that are inspirational. This year I was with the two gentlemen from Russia, who were in the orphanages, and hadn’t seen each other since they were 7 and 5 years old. What they’ve done, and how they’ve given back, and how they don’t want other kids to go through what they went through. But basically, I am a part of it like anyone else.
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Q: What do you think you've accomplished since HOPE Week started in 2009?
Girardi: I think with the platform that we have, and the concept that Jason has come up with — the importance of hope for people, and recognizing how easy it is to give back to your community. So many times when people give back, what they realize is they’re the ones who are truly blessed by the experience, not the people that you’re giving back to. It makes you feel good about what you’ve done, and it makes you want to give back more. So I think that is really important, and that is something that we hope to get out there.
I think we also hope that all 30 clubs will have some type of HOPE week. The Minnesota Twins did it this year, and the bottom line is, we want to be a part of making people’s lives better. I think that’s a responsibility that every human being has, no matter where you live. We’ve all been blessed with certain gifts and talents. Some people deem some talents greater than others; I don’t. We all have a chance to make people’s lives better and that’s what we should do as a world.
Q: So your goal is to spread this HOPE Week throughout the other Major League Baseball organizations, but also more generally, just letting people know how important it is to give back and how great they’ll feel when they make a difference.
Girardi: And to me, the importance of spreading the word of the importance of hope. People need hope, and at a time when things are really tough in our country, it doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day, and to give them a gleam of hope.
Q: Can you tell me about an experience you've had during HOPE Week that was particularly moving?
Girardi: Each player, each coach, everyone on our staff, picks one of the days. Sometimes guys get more involved. But this year, we had the kids who had lost parents in 9/11 and the mentors with them, and we had an opportunity. There was one boy who was out there stretching, and I made the suggestion, why don’t all of the kids go out and stretch, get in-between the players. And to watch how they got involved in our stretching routine, and were part of the players’ lives, and the players were part of their lives, really made me happy, because I thought it was time for them just to see that we’re normal people, and we just want to be there for you because we all struggle. Everyone in their life is going to struggle. I think when you look back on your struggles and when you get to the other side, the growth that you can have, for our players to bond with all of those children, I thought that was truly special.
Q: Is there anything else you want to add?
Girardi: The name of that group was Tuesday’s Children, by the way. My hope, too, is that it just spreads. I hope the importance of hope spreads, and that people continue to talk about it, and how easy it is to give back.
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