Another Year of Partnership with the Bronx Bombers
The press was there to talk to manager Aaron Boone about the Yankees’ winter signings, including that of the team’s other Aaron, slugger Aaron Judge. But the thousands of kids who showed up at Yankee Stadium Dec. 16 were more interested in seeing Santa Claus’ wares, including Hot Wheel Cars, dolls, and various action figures.
Some 5,000 youngsters along with their parents/guardians, were given an audience with Santa Claus, hot chocolate and a Christmas gift as part of the 13th annual Winter Wonderland event. The throng included some 50 from Catholic Charities’ Alianza Youth Services, who were among those who crowded the stadium concourse below the photographic tributes to Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Dave Winfield, and other Yankee stars.
“So many kids in the area don’t have a chance to have an amazing time at Christmas,” said Jennifer Steinbrenner, Yankees’ general partner and head of the New York Yankees’ Foundation, as she handed out toys to the youngsters, provided by Walmart. Santa’s elves distributing toys were comprised of Yankee employees, including Aaron Boone.
The event capped off another year of partnership between Catholic Charities and the Yankees. Also participating in the event were 50 young people from Catholic Guardian Services and Cardinal McCloskey Community Services, two agencies focused on youth that are part of the federation of Catholic Charities’ agencies.
“The kids enjoyed it,” said Claudio Salcedo, program director for the Alianza Mosaic Beacon program, a community center in the Bronx which includes an after-school program for children from kindergarten through eighth grade. He noted how packed the stadium concourse was with children.
Catholic Charities Alianza program provides an array of support for young people, and their families, in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Among them are youth-focused programs operating in public schools and other venues. As well as after-school programs, the Dominican Cultural Center, Dropout Prevention, Youth Employment, Youth Sports, and Catholic Youth Organization cultural programs in art, dance, and essay writing.
As part of the Yankees’ cooperative efforts with Catholic Charities, this summer Brian Smith, Senior Vice President of Community Relations, spent part of a day touring Second Farms affordable apartments in the West Farms neighborhood of the Bronx, developed by Catholic Homes New York.
One building in a portfolio of more than 2,800 affordable housing units, Second Farms provides 319 units of new housing for low-income families. Twenty-three units are designed for people with mobility and visual impairments. Thirty-eight apartments are reserved for formerly homeless families. Onsite services provided by Catholic Charities include assisting tenants with accessing benefits and supportive programs to ensure their successful transition to permanent affordable housing. Mr. Smith met staff who manage the building, those providing supportive services, as well as some resident families. The tour included a visit to Catholic Charities’ Bronx Food Hub, and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish food pantry, serving 300 families a week; one of many Catholic Charities supported local food pantries.
In September, the Yankees and Catholic Charities joined forces to host a “Back to School Resource Fair” for Bronx students at three of Catholic Charities’ supportive housing services sites: Second Farms, Highbridge, and Betances Houses. A total of 1,500 backpacks and school supplies were distributed to children.
At the Winter Wonderland event at Yankee Stadium, Aaron Boone told the press the obvious: he looked forward to once again linking with slugger Aaron Judge and was happy that the outfielder coming off a record-breaking homerun season would be coming back to the Bronx next season. After offering his perspective, the manager went back to distributing toys, for the moment trading filling out lineup cards to provide a bit of Christmas joy.
For many of the children, Yankee Stadium stands as a baseball landmark. But more will now see it as a part of their Christmas tradition.
“I saw a sense of belonging,” said Claudio. “The kids went to a place where they had an experience they can remember forever.”