06/20/2012 11:19 am ET Updated Aug 20, 2012

Harlem RBI: Empowering Youth Through Sports

Lance Armstrong took the defeat of cancer and turned it into a victory for all those affected. Michael Phelps used the $1 million bonus he earned from Speedo to work with various charitable programs to promote water safety and encourage youth swimming. Alyssa Milano launched UNICEF's famous Trick or Treat campaign. And Entourage's Adrian Grenier is as famous for his work as an environmentalist as he is for his acting, and he most recently shattered the record for the most expensive bottle of whiskey ever sold at auction, bidding it off for $94,000 benefiting SHFT's green initiatives.

In addition to New York Yankees programs such as -- National Hope Week -- I am also enormously proud of the contributions from my Yankees teammates such as relief pitcher David Robertson's involvement in the Special Olympics. And, of course, Nick Swisher's very own "Swish's Wishes."

It is this list of generosity and goodwill that has inspired me to get involved with Harlem RBI -- a baseball, softball and academic enrichment organization with the mission to provide inner-city youth with opportunities to play, learn and grow.

Being involved with an organization that does such important, deeply influential work for the community is a constant reminder of why I first fell in love with baseball; for the camaraderie and inspiration only a team can provide. Harlem RBI uses the power of teams to coach, teach and inspire youth to recognize their potential and realize their dreams -- just as baseball helped me to realize my dreams.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. According to a survey by the Athletic Footwear Association of 20,000 kids, 65 percent say they join sports to spend time with their friends. While only 20 percent join to really master sports. Kids from communities all over the world crave the experiences that Harlem RBI creates each and every day.

Team culture sets children up for success throughout their lives and the benefit of team sports extends beyond individual children to the community and society at large. Organized sports teach children self-discipline, teamwork, goal-setting and leadership. It also ensures that children have a safe place to go after school when parents are still at work, and during summer vacation.

Paul Caccamo, the executive director of Up2Us, a national coalition of community sports programs says that, "Kids who participate in sports attend school more, are more community and civic minded, get in less trouble, and tend to be more successful in the workplace. They have done studies from corporate leaders in the country: The number who made honor role was less than 20 percent but those who played sports was 70 percent - 80 percent."

But what does this all mean? For kids at Harlem RBI, it means graduating from high school in a neighborhood where nearly 60 percent drop out. It means coming from a neighborhood where only 13 percent of the population have college degrees -- and not only getting accepted into college, but graduating. It means infinite possibility for any child who comes through the doors of Harlem RBI.

This summer we're doing everything we can to increase support for Harlem RBI. I recently launched the second Dream Team 25 campaign calling on my fans to join me to help build a permanent home for Harlem RBI's DREAM Charter School and headquarters and program space for the organization. This project will be a vibrant resource for the East Harlem community and a place they can call home.

Last summer, the campaign brought nine lucky donors to Yankee Stadium for a game and dinner with me after donating a minimum of a $25. In just five months, Dream Teamers raised more than $37,000 towards Harlem RBI and DREAM's Capital Campaign -- we're hoping to top that this summer.

My hope is to inspire people -- like those before me have done -- to get involved and to make a difference; to be a part of the Harlem RBI team that has enriched my life and the lives of so many East Harlem youth; and, most importantly, to knock it out of the park for the next generation of leaders, athletes and scholars who need our support.

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