07/28/11 4:51 PM ET
Yankees visit lemonade stand for HOPE Week
By Aaron Taube / MLB.com
One by one, they came to the lemonade stand in front of the Ajello's house Thursday in Staten Island, each with the purpose of greeting Megan, a 17-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and scoliosis who has fought through six major surgeries, including a spinal fusion.
Though bound to a wheelchair, Megan's disabilities have not prevented her from putting together a charity lemonade stand with her family every year since 2006.
The event has grown steadily each year, but nothing before it could compare with the 2011 incarnation. With the help of the Yankees, who partnered with the Ajello's and the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus as part of the team's Help Others Persevere and Excel (HOPE) Week, this year's event brought in $11,000 for the Special Olympics -- nearly three times as much as any previous lemonade stand. What's more, the Yankees Foundation donated $5,000 to the cause and an additional $5,000 to Megan's school, the Seton Foundation.
"If you're ever down, read her resume or come sit with her for a while and it gets you going again," said Jim McCue, the New York State Council of the Knights of Columbus' administrative state chairman for Special Olympics. "We got involved with the lemonade stand, and it went to another level, and now with the Yankees, this really brought it to a level that's unbelievable. It's great."
In addition to her philanthropy for Special Olympics, Megan has advocated for disability-accessible parks in Staten Island and donated all of her Sweet 16 presents to Toys for Marine Tots.
Thursday, the Yankees gave her a boost by providing a brand-new lemonade stand, as well as a dunk tank. And though Cashman, the Yankees' general manager, was busy with the approaching non-waiver Trade Deadline on Sunday, he still made time to take the plunge at the hands of Yankees director of media and publicity Jason Zillo.
"It's so easy to get caught up in the monotony and the urgency that we feel, but in reality, what's more important than this?" Cashman said. "People have real needs that are daily challenges. Not necessarily whether we get a trade done or whether we get our next hit or how we match up against an opposing team. This is real-life stuff."
And the Yankees weren't the only guests helping draw scores of visitors to the Ajello's front lawn. Megan was presented with a cake made by "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro, and was also greeted by Sports Illustrated swimsuit models Julie Henderson, Christine Teigen and Kate Upton, as well as the New Jersey Nets dancers. They all heard about what Megan was doing and wanted to do what they could to pitch in.
"Megan's lemonade stand is such an inspiring story," Henderson said. "She's just so giving, and you see a lot of people in unfortunate situations and they kind of surround themselves and almost get down about it. She's the exact opposite. She not only thinks about herself, but other people."
As each new friend came to visit, Megan smiled, clapping her hands excitedly when Cashman and Zillo first showed up at her door. The Yankees had not only brought a financial boon to Megan's charity efforts, but had given her a day she will almost certainly never forget.
"It gives her a sense of pride that she's able to do certain things herself and get all these people to come here that she knows and that are concerned for her," Megan's father, Daniel, said of the lemonade stand. "It's nice to see a lot of the people that you don't get to see as much, and kind of make them aware of what kids like Megan can motivate people to do."
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.