The New York Yankees and Wish of a Lifetime became a force of nature when they partnered for day four of HOPE Week, the Yankees’ annual week-long effort to give back to their community in powerful ways.

On Thursday, they brought 87-year-old Sal Reale back to New York City from his home in St. Petersburg, Fla., so he could visit one of his former firehouses — Ladder 136 in Elmhurst, Queens — where Yankees players Greg Bird, Chad Green, Adam Warren, Tyler Austin, Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder surprised him.

Born and raised in the Bronx in the 1930s and 40s, Reale vividly recalls weekends when his father was off from work and the pair would venture together to Yankee Stadium to see Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.

As a young man, Reale served two years in the U.S. Army as a radio operator in Germany during the Korean War before returning home to focus his efforts on protecting the safety and security of his fellow New Yorkers. He became a transit officer for a few years, then switched uniforms to become a firefighter, serving a number of firehouses throughout the city for more than 20 years.

Aside from risking his life to save others through his various vocations, Reale, along with his wife, raised two sons. He and his wife made the family decision to move to Florida at the end of his FDNY service in 1977, but he still misses New York and its people immensely.

That’s why when Wish of Lifetime, an organization founded by Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom that offers seniors in their twilight years the opportunity to fulfill meaningful aspirations at the top of their bucket lists, asked Reale about his wish, he didn’t hesitate to tell them that he wanted to travel back to New York for the first time since he moved.



He had no idea, however, that as he was reminiscing about the old days and swapping stories with current firefighters, the Yankees would be there, too.

“This is awesome,” Reale told “I figured I’d walk in with my son or something and have a meet and greet with the guys who were on duty. I was thinking of ordering sandwiches in if they would allow me to join them in the meal, but then the Yankees did it.”

And the players who showed up were captivated by Reale’s account of watching Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio play.

To end the day, the team invited Reale for a pregame tour of Yankee Stadium before he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.



What a day for someone so deserving. Well done, Bronx Bombers and Wish of a Lifetime.