Friday, July 15, 2022

Yankees HOPE Week Day 4: You Gotta Believe


Yankees Senior Vice President & General Manager Brian Cashman speaks with YGB Executive Director Jennifer Pinder. Provided by New York Yankees.

On Thursday, the fourth day of Yankees HOPE Week, the team honored You Gotta Believe, a nonprofit that works to find permanent families for young people aging out of foster care so that they have the support system they need to live safely and reach their highest potential.

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

Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman, Yankees players Clay Holmes and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach Hensley Meulens surprised families from You Gotta Believe with a picnic and outdoor games at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx.

Representatives from the Yankees and You Gotta Believe. Provided by New York Yankees.

Clay Holmes looks on during his game of cornhole. Provided by New York Yankees.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa pitches to a young kid from YGB. Provided by New York Yankees.

YOU GOTTA BELIEVE (provided by New York Yankees)

Take yourself back to when you were a teenager. What were you like> Were you funny, mouthy, quiet, full of dreams and attitude, bright, maybe even brilliant?

Now imagine your teenage self, left to navigate the world without your family. Picture yourself without years of parental guidance. Without Thanksgiving holidays with family. Without Mom or Dad to call on when times were rough. Without anyone believing that you could be the person you want to be, the person you are today.

Thousands of young people who leave foster care face adulthood completely on their own. They are asked to step out into the adult world without a support system to help them negotiate life's challenges - in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Only a fraction of the 25,000 U.S. children who age out of foster care each year will go on to realize themselves as they wish to be. Instead, nearly 50% will experience homelessness. Those young people are also more likely to experience unemployment, unplanned pregnancy, legal system involvement, substance abuse, and lack even basic health care services. Only a tiny percentage will have a college degree by age 26, and most are unlikely to have a high school diploma and earn enough to support themselves.

That is why You Gotta Believe (YGB) was created in 1995 with a clear mission. To work toward the day when no young person leaves foster care without the unconditional lifetime commitment of a family.

Since then, the organization and its staff - made up entirely of foster parents or former foster youth - has helped connect hundreds of at-risk teenagers in the New York metro area to loving and caring families.

Foster Dad Joe Toles addresses the picnic. Provided by New York Yankees.

Local Bronx resident and You Gotta Believe member Joe Toles has adopted seven children with help from the non-profit. Toles adopted his first son Xavier when Xavier was 18 years old. 

"To be quite honest, I thought I would die by 12," said Xavier. "That's the way I was going. I was arrested at 11.

"I got the chance to restart my life. What I have now - a home, a family - that's the only thing I've been looking for my entire life."

Through You Gotta Believe's three major services - Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) certification, family finding, and long-term support services, the organization cements their long-term support for both the child and family.

"Every one of our kids in care is like this little jewel," said Mary Keane, Executive Director at You Gotta Believe and adoptive mother of 13. "They just need somebody to take them and nurture them - and they blossom. They blossom when they get love."

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