|Provided by New York Yankees.|
On the third day of Yankees HOPE Week, on Wednesday, the team honored Adam Israel and his Letters of Hope for Ukraine initiative, which began in March after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and he has delivered handwritten letters of hope and encouragement to displaced Ukrainian refugees in Poland and at the Ukraine border.
This is the 13th edition of Yankees HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel), a week-long community program that gives recognition to remarkable stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities.
Over each of the five days, the Yankees will reach out to an individual, family, or organization worthy of recognition and support, providing honorees with a day celebrating their accomplishments. For more information about this initiative, which is spearheaded by Jason Zillo, Yankees Vice President of Community & Media Relations, visit hopeweek.com.
Yankees players Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon and Matt Carpenter, and bullpen coach Mike Harkey visited Adam and his family at the Ukrainian restaurant Veselka. The group had lunch with Ukrainian refugees, who each shared their own story, and wrote letters that Adam will deliver later this summer.
|Adam Israel, his family, the Veselka staff, and the visiting Yankees (from left) Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, Matt Carpenter, and Mike Harkey. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Jordan Montgomery writing his letter, with Jameson Taillon next to him. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Matt Carpenter writing a Letter of Hope. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Provided by New York Yankees.|
LETTERS OF HOPE FOR UKRAINE (provided by New York Yankees)
Adam Israel has never been able to observe from the sidelines. While most people look from a distance in times of crisis, Adam has always run toward others' hardships.
In 2017, his family's home in the U.S. Virgin Islands was destroyed following two major hurricanes. Instead of fleeing the island, he chose to stay behind and assist with the rebuilding efforts. Through the organization "Adopt a Family," Adam led the initiative by urging people to send boxes full of everyday necessities and letters of encouragement.
Flash forward to this February, Russia began their senseless invasion of Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians - especially women, children, and the elderly - are displaced, fleeing the country and seeking refuge. The invasion particularly hit close to home for Adam, as his wife is from neighboring Poland. In fact, his family relocated to Augustow in eastern Poland for eight months during the pandemic. They established a new life, buying a home, car and even a pub before heading back to their home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Seeing the daily reports of destruction in Ukraine, Adam knew he couldn't watch from the comfort of his home. He needed to be on the frontlines and help those in need.
Inspired by his past experiences in the U.S. Virgin Islands back in 2017, Adam started the Letters of Hope for Ukraine initiative in early March of this year with a simple goal in mind: hand out as many letters with messages of hope to those in need of a pick-me-up.
While teaming up with the organization The Giving Circle, hand-written letters of support and encouragement for Ukrainians were mailed to Adam in Saratoga Springs, some which included a suggested $20 donation. Once an abundance of letters was in his possession, Adam took them in a suitcase over to Poland and distributed them to those in need, focusing on handing them out in large gathering locations such as refugee centers and train stations. He has made the trek over to Poland and the Ukraine border twice already and estimates that over 2,500 letters have been written to date.
"The majority of the cards emphatically state that America cares about them, that we are praying for them, and they are not forgotten," Israel said. "We recognize what Ukraine is going through, and as Americans we stand by them as they try to survive this horrible invasion and the atrocities that are happening all across the Ukraine."
Letters of Hope for Ukraine is just one part of Adam's efforts to alleviate some of the suffering the refugees are going through. He has hosted displaced families in his Augustow home and helped other refugees find temporary lodging and jobs in neighboring Polish villages. With the donations received through The Giving Circle, Adam has been able to provide refugees everyday necessities, such as food, medicine, hygiene products and first aid kits. Additionally, these donations also go to providing displaced children with bikes, toys, crafts and other touches of fun and normalcy. Adam has even served as a "free Uber driver," using his family car to drive refugees from the Ukraine border to safety in Poland.
The war in Ukraine doesn't seem to be near its end anytime soon. However, Adam is proving that positive messages and hope can go a long way, one letter at a time.
"It gives me a sense of meaning," Israel said on what the initiative has meant to him. "It gave me the ability to take a skill set I have to help others and have a direct impact on people who need help."