Friday, June 21, 2019

Yankees HOPE Week Concludes In Brooklyn With AdaptAbility

Cameron Maybin rides the AdaptAbility bike with Kiko Mina. All Photos by Jason Schott.

The 10th Anniversary edition of Yankees HOPE Week concluded on Friday afternoon in Brooklyn.

Manager Aaron Boone, along with players Aaron Hicks, DJ LeMahieu, Cameron Maybin and Brooklyn native Adam Ottavino joined Sandra Alfonzo at her “Behind Bars in Brooklyn” bike repair shop in the South Slope section of Brooklyn to surprise a 14-year-old with special needs, Kiko Mina, with his very own adaptive bicycle.

Aaron Boone (in front) with Sandra Alfonzo and Kiko Mina and his mother, along with (in back, Cameron Maybin, Adam Ottavino, DJ LeMahieu, and Aaron Hicks.

"It's amazing," Boone said of what events like this mean. "HOPE Week, we get to touch some lives, but as I say, inevitably, it ends up touching us probably even way more. To get to meet Kiko today, to see what a confident, charismatic, kind of 'own the room' kind of kid he is, and to see the joy he's getting from this amazing gift, and to get to meet his parents, knowing they're coming to the game tonight to hang a little bit more, this warms your heart."

Aaron Boone riding the bike with Kiko Mina. 

Cameron Maybin took the first ride up the block to the Purple Playground, and he said of the ride, "It was pretty cool, just really impressed, not only what they're doing here, which is amazing, so every kid feels like they're left out,  just the quality of work, the bike was so smooth, the ride was so smooth. I think not only how amazing not only for Kiko, but for his parents, just a way to continue to bond. This gives you goosebumps, I'm thankful that we can be a part of today. This is why we use our platform, this is what it's about, inspiring and uplifting. This has been a great day so far."

Cameron Maybin and Aaron Boone hanging out with Kiko Mina.

Aaron Boone then rode the bike within the Purple Playground, and he said of that experience, "I was a little nervous I was going to screw it up when I got on, so I was a little reluctant, but the bike's so great, easy to handle, even I can handle it, so it will be cool his brothers, his mom, his dad, can get him out there on the open road and feel the breeze."

Aaron Boone enjoying the ride with Kiko.

Kiko talking with Boone, Maybin, LeMahieu,and Ottavino.

Kiko Mina riding the new bike with his father.

AdaptAbility and Founder Sandra Alfonzo:

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Puerto Rico, Sandra Alfonzo is many things — a marathon runner, avid cyclist, holder of an accounting degree, local business owner, expert mechanic — but she has always been someone who relishes the freedom of exercising her body and mind. She owns and runs the playfully named “Behind Bars in Brooklyn” bike repair shop in the South Slope section of the borough.

Sandra Alfonzo talking with Yankees Vice President of Communications and Media Relations Jason Zillo as Aaron Boone and Cameron Maybin look on. 

“I don’t sell bikes,” said Alfonzo. “I only do repairs because I believe we can save the world and we can do better if we just use what we have and repair it.”
While training in Prospect Park in the summer of 2015, she saw two children, each around 6 years old, cross paths — one laughing with his dad while blissfully riding on his bicycle, and the other in his wheelchair, gazing both excitedly and longingly as the first boy pedaled by and out of sight.
“It broke my heart to see that the only difference between these two kids was that one was in a wheelchair and one was on a bicycle,” she said.
At that moment, mid-jog, her mission was clear: to provide mobility-challenged children that feeling of euphoria and freedom gained from riding on a bicycle — built just for them. Delivering on this idea would require a lot of expertise and elbow grease. In addition to trying to raise approximately $4,000 to pay for each custom-built adaptive bicycle, she would also have to identify children in need and coordinate the manufacturing specifics. She moved the mission forward with help from patrons of the shop and IOBY (In Our Backyards), a Brooklyn-based not-for-profit crowdfunding platform. Local parents and schools helped identify children who could benefit from adaptive bicycles and orders were placed with Freedom Concepts, a Canadian company that builds bikes for those with special needs. Alfonzo formalized her grassroots effort, creating a 501(c)(3) called AdaptAbility.
Because the donors and recipients are in the same community, it creates a fabric of empathy and care that envelops a neighborhood.
“Sandra is a natural leader in her community,” said Katie Lorah, IOBY Communications and Creative Strategy Director. “Positively contributing to change in your own neighborhood — that is being led by a member of your own community — is an important step toward building civic strength.”
In January 2018, the first AdaptAbility recipient was 15-year-old Diego Muñoz, who has cerebral palsy. His bicycle has a set of controls on the back that a caregiver can operate for steering and braking while walking or jogging behind Diego.
”He doesn’t feel he’s different when he’s on a bike,” said his father, Gerardo. “He just feels that freedom and independence you feel when you’re riding.”
In just a year and a half, Alfonzo’s 501(c)(3) organization has provided unique bikes for eight families and has raised money to provide five more in the near future (including one for the organization’s first adult recipient). The children’s bikes are adjustable, so they last for years as the child grows.
“Our goal is not only to give them a bike,” Alfonzo said. “It’s to give them strength to continue reaching out for what they want in their life.”

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