Turn 2 Foundation's celebration includes gift packages, movie screening
By Mark Newman
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter treated 485 children to a screening of the movie "Annie" and then surprised them with holiday gift bags Monday night at an Upper West Side theater in Manhattan. Included in the bags was a refrigerator magnet that listed "Derek Jeter's 10 Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams," and they read in order as follows:
Set Your Goals High. Deal with Growing Pains. Find the Right Role Models. The World Isn't Always Fair. Don't be Afraid to Fail. Have a Strong Supporting Cast. Be Serious, But Have Fun. Think Before You Act. Be a Leader, Follow the Leader. Life is a Daily Challenge.
Any of those could apply to the assignment about to be undertaken by his new replacement as Yankees shortstop, Didi Gregorius.
"What does he have to do?" Jeter said, repeating a question. "Enjoy himself. Work hard. Play hard. He'll be just fine."
There will be more to say about that subject in the near future, but on this night, the retired legend was adamant about putting the focus on his Turn 2 Foundation. That priority is not surprising, considering all those large checks that clubs around Major League Baseball made out to the foundation during his farewell stops in 2014, and the Turn 2 Foundation's Annual Holiday Express was one big, happy celebration.
"I've gotten quite a bit of support throughout this past year for my foundation," Jeter said. "This is one of the highlights for us as a family, because this is the holiday time, we want our kids to enjoy themselves, have a great night, give them some gifts, and we want to see smiles on their faces. The holiday time is something we always look forward to as a family."
This year, the kids from all five New York boroughs were treated to the "Annie" screening thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment, and then Jeter, Santa Claus and his elves from the New York Jeter's Leaders program paid a surprise visit. The gift bag contained items donated by the Yankees, Jordan Brand and Haddad, as well as a copy of Jeter's new children's book, "The Contract," courtesy of Jeter Publishing and Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. The gift bags were assembled Dec. 2 at Yankee Stadium by the New York Jeter's Leaders.
"I don't know how excited they are to see me. They're excited to get some gifts," Jeter deadpanned. "This has been an incredible year in so many ways, and what I am most proud of is the tremendous success of the Turn 2 Foundation. The children in our programs have inspired me through their hard work and dedication to bettering themselves and their communities, and I hope their holiday season is filled with the same joy they have brought my family."
Jeter's Leaders is the signature initiative of the Turn 2 Foundation. The four-year program fosters academic achievement, healthy lifestyles, leadership development and social change among high school students in New York and Kalamazoo, Mich. The Turn 2 Foundation, established in 1996, has awarded more than $20 million in grants to create and support such signature programs.
"This is the fun event," said Jeter's sister, Sharlee, president of the Turn 2 Foundation. "This is the event where you just let loose and you let the kids just be rewarded for doing a good job, and giving them an incentive for working hard during school and doing well in the after-school program. It's all about being in the holiday spirit and just having some fun."
Asked what it will be like presumably having her brother around to see more of the foundation's inner workings, she said, "Derek was very, very involved with the foundation before. I've said this before and I'll say it again: As long as he doesn't ask for my office space, I'm fine. I love to have him around. It'll be good. He's keeping busy post-baseball right now, but it'll be interesting to have him see maybe some of the stuff that he hasn't seen in the past, day to day."
Jeter, enjoying "a good kind of busy" these days, dismissed a report saying he has explored possible ownership interest someday. "You believe everything you read or hear?" he said. "You give me some money and maybe I'll own a team. I don't have enough money to own a team."
On this night, he was clearly more impressed by the efforts of much younger kids, such as George Alex Huot and Liz De Jesus, who accompanied Jeter on the red carpet at AMC Theater and wore pinstriped "Jeter's Leaders" Yankee jerseys with the No. 2 on the back.
"When I was their age, it never crossed my mind to give back," Jeter said. "I was just focused on myself, how I would get my career underway. For them to give back to the community at such an early age, it's nice. The more you talk to them, the more you get to know them, it's pretty impressive."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.