Yanks, social media influencer give 9-year-old 'priceless' experience

June 20th, 2024

NEW YORK -- On June 5, a contingent of Yankees stars ventured to Clifton, N.J., to meet Jacob Cohan, a 9-year-old Yankees megafan who tragically lost his older brother in a car accident more than a year ago. The visit was a thrilling surprise for Cohan, who spent the afternoon playing catch with Nestor Cortes, Gleyber Torres, Anthony Volpe and Dennis Santana at a nearby park. Later that day, Cohan rode back to the Bronx with the team, took batting practice on the field at Yankee Stadium, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and participated in postgame high-fives.

Throughout the entire stadium experience, Zachery Dereniowski was by Cohan’s side. The social media influencer, known as MDMotivator on his platforms, makes it his mission to change lives through simple acts of kindness. The Yankees hosted Dereniowski and Cohan again Thursday as part of HOPE Week, honoring the pair in an on-field pregame ceremony prior to the club’s series finale against Baltimore.

Cohan and Dereniowski also toured the famed ballpark and enjoyed a Hands on History experience in the New York Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America. The Yankees also donated $10,000 to Dereniowski’s foundation, Kindness is Cool, in the spirit of giving back.

“To be part of that day with Gleyber, Nestor and Dennis, it meant a lot to us,” Volpe said. “Obviously, we tried to give Jacob an experience and a moment he won’t forget. I think it just shows what it means to be a Yankee.”

The Yankees kicked off the 15th year of HOPE Week by posting a social media video recap of Dereniowski’s original surprise for Cohan, because it fit perfectly into this year’s initiative’s overall theme: to harness the power of social media for good. Dereniowski’s acts of kindness range from gifting cash, clothes or household necessities to those in need, to just giving someone a hug when they need it most, helping to brighten thousands of people’s days over the last few years. The goal is to seek out humble and deserving everyday folks and bring them unexpected joy.

But the real difference is made when those interactions hit social media. Dereniowski has more than 18 million followers on TikTok, 6.7 million on YouTube, 5.3 million on Instagram and 2.7 million on Facebook, allowing these feel-good moments to get amplified to all corners of the world.

“The power of just having a stranger hear me made me want to do that for others,” he said in an interview. “That pivoted my life.”

The Yankees have donated more than $1 million through HOPE (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Week initiatives since its inception in 2009.

“It was awesome,” Jacob’s dad, Robert Cohan, said. “It was priceless.”