HOPE Week: Yankees hand out pillows

Robinson Cano signs a "Pillow of Love." MLB.com

NEW YORK -- In the one to two minutes it takes for 10-year-old Autumn Blinn to sew her "Pillows of Love," the fluffy gift she creates ends up providing a much longer impression on the recipient.

Tuesday at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan, Blinn's "Pillows of Love", as well as a visit by the New York Yankees, brought smiles to the patients.

"I think [as I make them] that the person who receives this -- they're not going to feel as much pain because it's very comforting," Blinn said. "It was really exciting because everybody was smiling."

For Blinn's charitable efforts, she was honored Tuesday by the Yankees as part of their fifth annual HOPE Week. The Yankees surprised Blinn and her family before helping distribute the pillows to the Ronald McDonald patients. The entire group also had a pizza party to conclude the afternoon.

Blinn and her family were on the field before Tuesday's game, and the Rome, N.Y. native threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees faced the Kansas City Royals.

The Yankees also donated $5,000 each to the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan and to Faxton St. Luke's in Utica, N.Y., where Blinn's grandfather, John Santiago, undergoes kidney dialysis three times a week.

The Yankees were represented Tuesday by manager Joe Girardi, second baseman Robinson Cano, utility player Eduardo Nunez, reliever David Robertson and outfielder Vernon Wells.

"It was very surprising and exciting," Blinn said of meeting the Yankees. "I said to myself, 'Seriously, these are the Yankees, or is this just a trick?'"

Blinn's "Pillows of Love" effort began last year after being taught how to sew by her grandmother. Santiago told her the pillow provided for him for his dialysis was too big, and he liked the fabric on the pillow Blinn had created. Blinn then made one for her grandfather, who stuffs the pillows Blinn creates, and the pillow became a hit among the patients, who requested their own.

That spurred the "Pillows for Love" moment, which Blinn said has resulted in more than 300 pillows being made. She has distributed them at Faxton St. Luke's, the Rome Memorial Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House in Syracuse, and Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. The pillows are all donated, not sold for profit.

"I think it's remarkable that a 10-year-old has such an understanding of what life is about and giving back and giving people hope," Girardi said.

Tuesday's event began with the Yankees surprising Blinn and her family, with Santiago exclaiming "Oh!" as he saw the congregation of Yankees in front of him.

After some chitchat, the group headed downstairs to a play area equipped with bins full of Blinn's pillows to distribute.

The Ronald McDonald House patients couldn't stop smiling as they posed for photos with their favorite Yankees, as well as receiving autographs, and, in some cases, handing them out. Nunez, who danced while playing a video game, had a shirt filled with autographs from the patients.

"It's fun. See the smiles on their faces, and they're asking for autographs and photos. That's what it's all about, just make them happy and spend the day with them," Cano said. "I love this kind of moment."