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Yankees conclude HOPE Week by baking cookies for sick children

For the 5th day of HOPE Week, Yankees players Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, Adam Warren, Brendan Ryan and Greg Bird met Frank Squeo, founder of the non-profit organization Baking Memories 4 Kids, Aug. 21, 2015. While receiving treatment for cancer, Squeo was inspired by children he met to create a non-profit organization that bakes and sells chocolate chip cookies during the holiday season. (CredIt: New York Yankees)

Alex Rodriguez and his teammates got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Literally.

But they didn't get in trouble, because they were the ones who baked them.

"They came out good," Rodriguez said. "I wish my two daughters were here. They are always making fun, saying that Daddy is a terrible cook."

The Yankees capped HOPE Week Friday by trading in their hats and uniforms for chef hats and aprons at Rockland BOCES. They baked for the nonprofit foundation, Baking Memories 4 Kids, which sells cookies during the holiday season to fund all-expense paid vacations for families of children with life-threatening illnesses.

A-Rod, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan rolled cookie dough. Nathan Eovaldi placed baking sheets in the oven. Greg Bird bagged and boxed the cookies.

"My only concern was we didn't have enough oven mitts," joked Frank Squeo, who founded Baking Memories 4 Kids in 2012. "If they burn their hands and can't play, there will be a lot of unhappy fans. And I'll be the most upset because this is the team I love."

In 1977, when Squeo was 16, he became a Yankees partial season-ticket holder. Unhappy with his seat, he said he wrote letters every year to Yankees ticket manager Frank Swaine, and was moved down a row or two each time. Twenty years or so later, Squeo was invited to a lunch outing by a friend who worked for the Yankees. He said he ran into Swaine, who remembered Squeo as the persistent kid who wrote the letters.

In 2007, Squeo said he developed a lump on his neck, which doctors were unable to diagnose. When Swaine heard, he placed a call and got Squeo into Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Squeo was diagnosed with Stage III testicular cancer, which had spread.

"If it wasn't for Frank Swaine making a call," Squeo said, "I would not be alive today."

Squeo received the treatment he needed and became inspired to develop his foundation. Squeo, 47, said Baking Memories 4 Kids has sold more than 10,000 containers of cookies and sent 10 families on vacation to Orlando so far.

"They get to forget about all of the treatments and problems for one week," said Squeo, a Rockland County resident. "In a lot of cases, these children won't survive, so this creates memories the families will have for the rest of their lives."

When Squeo entered the kitchen Friday, he saw the Yankees and was brought to tears.

"It was incredible to see Frank's reaction," Sabathia said. "He is baking cookies and changing lives."

The Yankees donated a check for $10,000 to the foundation, which is now taking preorders on its website. Squeo and Noah Diaz, a 4-year-old suffering from a rare heart disorder and Kabuki syndrome, threw the first pitch before Friday night's game. Diaz's family was then surprised with an all-expense paid vacation.

"It's an inspiring, phenomenal story," Rodriguez said. "Not only is Frank one of the biggest Yankee fans, but he's a survivor. He's turned his situation into something very positive and he's helping kids."

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