NEW YORK -- Live from New York, it's HOPE Week!The Yankees' ninth annual community initiative brought them to Rockefeller Center on Wednesday, where several players visited the iconic Studio 8H -- home of "Saturday Night Live" -- and laughed at jokes delivered by third-graders Max Chwatko and Alex Travin, known
NEW YORK -- Live from New York, it's HOPE Week!
The Yankees' ninth annual community initiative brought them to Rockefeller Center on Wednesday, where several players visited the iconic Studio 8H -- home of "Saturday Night Live" -- and laughed at jokes delivered by third-graders Max Chwatko and Alex Travin, known as "The Comedy Kids."
Tyler Clippard, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Aaron Judge and Tommy Layne walked through the host's door to surprise the Chwatko and Travin families before performing an on-stage skit, taking a tour of the SNL set and visiting with Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC's "The Tonight Show."
• HOPE Week initiative
"It was awesome, especially those two things -- 'Saturday Night Live' is iconic and Fallon is my favorite," Headley said. "He cracks me up when he gets laughing. My wife [Casey] was really jealous when I told her what was going on. It was a really cool event with some extraordinary kids."
The story begins in December 2015, when Rob and Robin Chwatko learned their 6-year-old daughter, Scarlett, had a brain tumor. Ten months after the diagnosis, Robin received a curious phone call from a parent at her son's school, asking how to donate to the fundraiser the family was planning.
Robin learned that Max and his friend, Alex, had been telling jokes at school in exchange for donations that they planned to give to pediatric brain cancer research. The boys had amassed bagfuls of change from their young peers before any adults found out about the idea.
"When my sister got sick with cancer, it felt like my responsibility to help raise money for cancer research," Max said. "Being funny is a big part of our life, and it helps us not feel so sad about the cancer. I like how jokes come to life when I tell them."
With some help from their parents, Max and Alex hosted their first gig at the Chappaqua, N.Y., Farmers' Market in November and set up a joke stand to raise money for A Kids' Brain Tumor Cure Foundation -- also in Chappaqua -- a non-profit that benefits pediatric brain cancer research.
Having raised more than $20,000 to date, the Comedy Kids have set up a Web site (comedykids.org) to help other children raise money for causes, offering a starter kit that includes joke cards and T-shirts. The Yankees donated $10,000 to the cause on Wednesday.
"We can make the world a funnier and happier place, where people are going around the streets caring for each other and telling each other jokes," Alex said. "We would have such a good place to live. I want that for our Earth."
Max and Alex said that they Skyped with their friends at school while eating lunch with the Yankees, with Max remarking that he couldn't believe Judge's size in person -- he'd imagined the rookie slugger as being Photoshopped.
Alex said that his favorite joke of the day was: "Why are baseball players so rich? Because they play in the diamonds."
"The kids have done something extraordinary," Headley said. "For being as young as they are and having such a big impact, the kindness and heart to think of something like that, and how much fun they had with the jokes they were telling. It always puts something in perspective."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.