QUEENS — Derek Jeter brought 200 kids some holiday cheer Wednesday night when he paid them a surprise visit during a Rego Park event organized by his Turn 2 Foundation.
The kids came from from several afterschool programs Turn 2 helps runs in partnership with the city’s Parks Department. In addition to a Jeter handshake, they also received backpacks full of toys, coloring books and other items donated in part by the New York Yankees.
The 42-year-old former New York Yankees captain established the foundation with his father 20 years ago to promote healthy lifestyles for young people, to turn them away from drugs and alcohol and encourage them to study.
So far, Turn 2 has given more than $23 million to groups that support its mission, the organization said.
At the afterschool programs, kids practice sports, work on their homework and learn about topics such as drug awareness and nutrition, according to the foundation.
The programs also build bonds among children.
“I’m surrounded by all my friends and my friends are here for me,” Adrienne Sherestal, 10, of Brooklyn, said about the program.
The longtime Yankees shortstop offers them inspiration, participants said.
“He is a huge part of our lives," said Shawn Salick, 17, of Far Rockaway, one of the “Jeter’s Leaders,” a group of high school students acting as role models for kids on behalf of Jeter.
After the event, Jeter, whose No. 2 jersey will soon be retired, said his family wants their legacy “to be away from the field.”
“This is something that means an awful lot to my entire family,” he said about the foundation, which is currently run by his sister Sharlee Jeter.
The foundation organizes similar events in various New York City neighborhoods and other parts of the country every year.
“It’s a holiday time,” Jeter said, joking that the kids were in fact cheering for Santa Claus, not him.
“I think everyone deserves to have a smile on their face.”