On this Christmas eve, I thought I’d share a little-known story I recently became aware of about one of the best-known Americans of the first half of the 20th century, Babe Ruth.
The story gets its meaning because, in 1902 seven year-old George Herman Ruth was sent by his parents to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, in Southwest Baltimore, due to his incorrigible behavior. Fast-forward forty five years and 714 home runs later, and eight months before he would succumb to a rare form of cancer at the age of 53, and we find the Babe dressed up as Santa, fighting the intolerable pain caused by his disease. Although he had become the most famous athlete and celebrity in America, he never forgot his roots and what it felt like to be abandoned and to have nothing. And so when an offer came to dress as Santa and give out toys to children diagnosed with Polio at the Hotel Astor in New York City, even though he was in unspeakable pain with part of his face caved in, the Babe rose to the challenge as he had so many times before throughout his career. He donned the red suit and requisite white beard and withstood the pain to talk with and give out toys to all 65 children at the event.
Here’s a short clip that recorded one of Babe’s last public appearances.
In an unusual and wonderful twist of fate, we now have the privilege and opportunity to continue Babe Ruth’s passion for helping children through our Baltimore City Capital Campaign, which is raising funds to substantially improve both the Weinberg Y in Waverly and the Druid Hill Y, and to construct a new Y in Southwest Baltimore, at the former Cardinal Gibbons High School. That school was originally the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where the Babe learned to play baseball and spent his childhood years.
In her recently published book, The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created, author Jane Leavy writes, “I think that kids like this completed him. And they needed him. And this was a man who, given where he had come from, given how he had been abandoned, was not going to abandon little kids.”
And, to complete the circle, I can confidently state that the Y is also not going to abandon little (or big) kids in Baltimore City or anywhere in central Maryland.
In fact, as if channeling the spirit of the Babe, holiday gifts were bought and donated by Y members, volunteers and partners as a part of our annual Giving Tree Project. This past Friday, the gifts were distributed to kids whose families can’t afford to buy them. Here is what they achieved together:
- Youth impact – 630 kids were surprised with toys and clothes for the holidays; in addition 150 youth from Y school partnership programs received school supply kits to carry them into the second half of the year
- Giving Tree gifts included: puzzles, Legos, winter coats, shoes, dolls, bikes, sports balls, and more…..
- Youth impacted were from: Y Head Start (in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City), Y Before and After School Enrichment Programs, Y Preschool, Y Community Schools in Baltimore City, and Big Brothers Big Sisters at the Y.
- Total number of gifts: More than 1,750 gifts with an in-kind value of almost $40,000 were received in addition to dozens of gift cards
- Companies adopting children: JCPenny White Marsh, Horseshoe Casino, Revere Bank, Bowie & Jensen, LLC, Remco, Inc., Aetna Health, Sylvan Learning
Take a look. I feel certain the Babe would have been proud. I know I am.
Many thanks to the hundreds of Y members, volunteers and partners who generously participated in this campaign and who continue to by donating funds to the Giving Tree project. If you wish to participate, just follow this link.
May you and your family and loved ones have a peaceful holiday. Thank you for all you do for the Y and for the community, for a better us.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland