07/21/2009 12:19 PM ET
Hope Week community initiative continues on Tuesday
Yankees reach out to inspirational little leaguer Tom Ellenson
The New York Yankees are proud to continue HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Tuesday by reaching out to Tom Ellenson, an inspirational Little Leaguer with cerebral palsy and his father Richard, who created a device that allows non-verbal individuals like his son to more easily communicate. Yankees players Joba Chamberlain, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, and along with Hitting Coach Kevin Long will meet Tom and his best friends for a private lunch at Out of the Kitchen, a Greenwich Village restaurant, in an event that is closed to the media. Afterwards, everyone will walk across the street to J.J. Walker Little League Field where his teammates and other children with cerebral palsy will participate in a rally and baseball clinic involving Yankees players. Tom and his teammates will attend the Yankees game that evening and be part of on-field ceremonies.
TOM ELLENSON'S STORY:
Sixth-grader Tom Ellenson is a huge Yankees fan, who uses a motorized wheelchair as a result of the effects of Cerebral Palsy (CP). Nonetheless, Tom's family and friends see to it that there's nothing he can't be a part of.
Though CP has not affected Tom's cognitive skills, it has rendered him non-verbal and unable to communicate through traditional speech. As a result, his father, Richard, was inspired to create the Tango (www.dynavoxtech.com), a device that improves the speed and clarity by which its users may express their thoughts. With the push of a button, users can launch fully customizable pre-programmed phrases, such as "I'm feeling good today" or "Dad, stop bugging me!" through a computer that speaks in a voice like someone his age would have.
This year, the Greenwich Village Little League cut through red tape to allow Tom to participate as much as any other child, even giving him the honor of leading the season-opening league parade. During games, he dressed in uniform, sat in the dugout and gave high fives as necessary. Inspired by Tom, the team became league champions.
At the season-ending award ceremony, the team honored Tom with the MVP award - for Most Valuable Person.
The way his teammates and the Little League have embraced Tom serves as a model of inclusivity. Their acts are not lost on Tom. Just as he inspires those around him, he is strengthened by those who make it a point to be in his life.
Those who first witness Tom with his friends are amazed at the fluidity of their interaction despite the obvious physical differences. Above and beyond the help of the Tango, they find ways to communicate beyond speech.
The relationship Tom has with those around him is best summed up by his baseball team's slogan - "We play as one, we win as one."
TO MAKE A DONATION IN TOM ELLENSON'S NAME:
Please visit the United Cerebral Palsy Web site at www.ucp.org.
ABOUT HOPE WEEK:
- The creation of HOPE Week is rooted in the fundamental belief that acts of goodwill provide hope and encouragement to more than just the recipient of the gesture.
- Each day from Monday, July 20, through Friday, July 24, Yankees players are reaching out to an individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support. All daily celebrations will culminate at Yankee Stadium, however, outreach will often take place away from the ballpark. Whenever possible, the Yankees' goal is to personally connect with individuals in the settings of their greatest personal accomplishments.
- For the Yankees, this event is unique because every player and Manager Joe Girardi, will participate.
- HOPE Week also strives to bring attention to the week's highlighted causes and organizations. The greatest challenge facing many not-for-profits is generating interest, awareness and funding for their missions.
- Those inspired by HOPE Week stories can look to New York City's NYC Service (www.nyc.gov/service) and President Barack Obama's United We Serve (www.serve.gov), which promote and find outlets for volunteerism.
- The Yankees thank Allen Dalton Productions, Coppertone, Hard Rock Cafe, Modell's, New Era, Partners Executive Transportation, and White Rose for their HOPE Week generosity.