Today’s Blog Talk Radio show featured Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director for United Neighborhood Houses who shares how more than 1000 kids from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds have had the opportunity this summer to learn more about Jackie Robinson, meet and hear from former World Series champions and attend a Mets game at Citi Field! Then our partner in crime Kim Orlando called in and we caught up on everything from family cruising, to Kentucky, Boynton Beach memoirs and much more!
It’s not every day that I take my kids to see the Mets without my husband. Actually, I’ve never taken my kids to a baseball stadium without their dad, but all that changed yesterday when we were invited by Citi Field and the Mets to participate in a special program they’ve kicked off at the ballpark called Citi Field Kids. Citi Field Kids is an educational and motivational community based initiative for New York City school students developed by Citi in collaboration with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, United Neighborhood Houses, and the Mets. The program kicked off on April 15th in conjunction with Major League Baseball’s annual Jackie Robinson Day, and we were lucky enough to experience the fifth installment along with over 200 elementary, middle and high school children.
As soon as we arrived, all the kids received complimentary t-shirts and we were then introduced to Heather Cannady, a Jackie Robinson scholar who graduated Magna Cum Laude from NYU and then went on to Harvard University where she earned her law degree. Heather, who got the chance to pursue her dreams because of a Jackie Robinson scholarship, guided us into the rotunda where we all learned about the life and legacy of the baseball legend. What impressed me most about the rotunda (which incidentally is a replica of Brooklyn’s famed Ebbet’s Field) was the photo gallery of Jackie Robinson adorning the walls as well as Robinson’s inspiring message about having the power within ourselves to make a difference: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
Along with the impressive photos chronicling Robinson’s life, the rotunda also showcases nine values embodied by the legendary ball player, including courage, integrity, determination, persistence, citizenship, justice, commitment, teamwork and excellence. Once the kids posed for a group photo on the majestic steps of the rotunda, we were then brought to an auditorium where former 1969 Mets World Series champion, Ed Charles shared why Jackie Robinson was a personal role model to him. Charles fondly recalls watching Jackie Robinson in action during spring training and as a result, he became determined to pursue his personal dream of making it in the major leagues. Heather also shared the story of how the Jackie Robinson scholarship enabled her to achieve her academic goals – attending NYU and Harvard University Law School – the same program attended by President Obama. The presentation also included videos of Jackie Robinson and the Amazing 1969 Mets as well as a rags to riches story by the event host, who, despite the odds, reinvented his career late in life and is now living his dream as a television sportscaster.
Next, we learned that one lucky 11 year old girl who is an avid ball player, was selected to throw out the first pitch of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals. And before we knew it, the session ended with a surprise visit by Mr. Met. The kids were then presented with a special Citi Field Kids knapsack that was chock full of goodies – from a baseball hat, to key chain, reporter notebook, and a book celebrating Jackie Robinson’s life. Of course, my two young charges wanted a little something extra, so I splurged for two Mr. Met dolls.
After the kids used their complimentary gift cards for hot dogs, soda and Carvel ice cream, it was time to watch the game. And I have to say, even though I’m admittedly a fair weather fan, it was pretty exciting to spend a day with my kids in the brand new Citi Field stadium. The Mets’ bats were on fire, with David Wright hitting a home run, a brand new player having his very first career hit and the team scoring an amazing nine runs and shutting out the Cardinals 9-0.
As the day drew to a close, it was truly a perfect afternoon. Having the opportunity to witness hundreds of kids be inspired by true role models who were doing what they love is an amazing opportunity that is sure to have a profound impact on their young lives. And it all began with Jackie Robinson – whose legacy will forever be etched in history, as the man who bridged the divide and shattered racial barriers – paving the way for several generations of athletes and individuals to proudly walk in his footsteps.
And now, for some behind the scenes video from our incredibly memorable afternoon!