There are certain things you can just expect in a given year in New York City: brilliant colors in Central Park in the fall, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in November, holiday lights and window displays in December and cherry blossoms in Madison Square Park in March. And, don’t forget to add New York Yankees’ HOPE Week to that list.
For the past 10 years, the Yankees take a week out of their June schedule to step up big for their community. Each day, they reach out to a different individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support, and show up — literally and figuratively — for folks making a positive impact.
To kickoff 2018’s HOPE Week on Monday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone, Brett Gardner, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, bench coach Josh Bard and the founders of the Muddy Puddles Project surprised families that have been affected by pediatric cancer at Mohawk Day Camp. The group participated in a “Mess Fest” that included playing in mud and foam pits, “pie-face” and water fights.
Founded by Cindy and Louis Campbell in memory of their son, Ty Louis, the Muddy Puddles Project celebrates children and the joys that childhood can bring.
Ty, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 2, dreamed of jumping in muddy puddles once his cancer was cured, but sadly, he passed away shortly after his fifth birthday in 2012.
In lieu of flowers and in honor of Ty, the Campbells asked their community to allow the children in their lives to jump in muddy puddles. The response was astounding, and the Campbells received hundreds of photos of children playing in the mud and jumping in puddles.
So, they formed the Muddy Puddles Project “to inspire parents to let their children have more fun, while also raising much needed attention and funding for pediatric cancer research.”
Every year, the organizations hosts “Mess Fest” in Mahopac, N.Y. to give children with so much on their minds the opportunity to let loose and be a kid.
“When our daughter was in treatment and we lived in isolation, Mess Fest was an opportunity for our children to get outside together in a safe environment and do the messy things they couldn’t do at home or anywhere else,” said Mess Fest attendee Matthew Kabel. “For us, as cancer parents, it was a chance to let our guards down for just a few hours and let our kids just be kids and enjoy a sense of normalcy that childhood cancer robbed from them.”
More than 10,000 people have participated in Mess Fest in the past five years, which has raised more than $800,000 for pediatric cancer research.
“The fact that this has come out of his loss makes it a little easier to cope every day knowing that there’s a lot of impact happening in his memory,” Cindy told MLB.com. “He’s forcing change. He’s helping us. He’s giving us the tools we need to make a difference in his memory.”
To recognize all that the Campbells have done, not only did coaches and players jump in and get dirty with the kids, but they also donated $10,000 to the Muddy Puddles Project. Then they invited Cindy to throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the team takes on the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.
We can’t wait to see what the Yankees have in store for the rest of the week.