Jose's family donates on late pitcher's birthday

July 31st, 2017

MIAMI -- Just blocks from Marlins Park in Little Havana on his 25th birthday, the late 's family, including his 5-month-old daughter Penelope, gathered for a worthy cause in his name.

Fernandez's mother, Maritza, grandmother, Olga, and Penelope's mother, Maria Arias, all presented the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana with a $25,000 check on behalf of the JDF16 Foundation, its first donation since its creation. The Foundation chose the amount because it marked Fernandez's 25th birthday.

The money will be used toward baseball supplies for the organization's local children.

"It makes me feel very fulfilled because it was one of my son's dreams," Maritza said. "It's something that he wanted to do."

The Fernandez family established the JDF16 Foundation after Jose's tragic death last year to reflect the values he embodied: love of family and a passion for helping youth.

At one point during the presentation, Penelope reached out to touch a canvas of her father, a move that brought tears to Arias' eyes.

The sentimental day spilled over to Marlins Park, where Dee Gordon cradled Penelope around the clubhouse prior to Monday's game. Gordon, who hit an emotional leadoff home run in Miami's first game after Fernandez's death last year, showed Penelope her father's locker for the first time. It has been encased in glass and untouched.

An emotional Maritza was thankful Fernandez's legacy is living on in the community and through Penelope. She was especially grateful his daughter will be taken care of down the road.

Both donning jerseys with Fernandez's name on the back, Penelope and Arias were presented with a scholarship certificate. The Kiwanis Club of Little Havana usually offers scholarships to local Hispanic high school students but made an exception for the 5-month-old.

On top of the scholarship, which was initiated last year, Marlins owner Jeffery Loria and the organization set up a trust in Penelope's name in June.


"We all felt very touched by Jose's story and his impact in the community was very huge for us," said Jerry Fernandez, president of the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana. "This was one that was a no-brainer."

Jerry was thankful for the generous gift from the JDF16 Foundation, but he said he wished the groups were gathering under different circumstances.

"We feel honored that the Jose Fernandez family chose to put their trust in us in their first donation to be able to make sure everything gets back to the kids, which is what we want," Fernandez said.