HOPE Week: ‘Cleaning for a Reason’

Joe and Lena Girardi with Marybell Ruiz in her living room.

There was more that one cleanup hitter in the Yankees’ lineup that visited a woman battling colon cancer as part of the HOPE Week initiative Tuesday to do some housework in connection with Cleaning for a Reason, a service to cancer patients.

Manager Joe Girardi and his daughter, Lena, arrived on site with second baseman Starlin Castro and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran prepared to help tidy up the one-bedroom apartment in the North Bronx. Marybell Ruiz had expected Evelyn Rodriguez from the Spotless Service to make her scheduled visit and was stunned to see who came along with her.

“I am a lifelong Yankees fan,” Marybell said. “Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi are my two favorites. When Joe took over the team [as manager] I was so happy.”

Girardi took over this team as well. He instructed his players to get to work in the kitchen while he and Lena toiled with mops and dusters in the living room. When Marybell and her husband Flavio said their son Messiah and daughter Amaya were in school, Girardi suggested they go get them and bring them home to meet the players and off they went.

“This is weird,” Amaya said later at the apartment. “It is like a dream.”

Among the cleaning unit was Debbie Sardone, founder and president of Cleaning for a Reason, which offers complimentary monthly house cleanings to women who are undergoing cancer treatments. The organization is an outgrowth of Buckets and Bows Maid Service, which Sardone started in 2003 in Lewisville, Texas. Sardone recalled receiving a phone call from a woman who sought a quote for service but said she could not afford it because she was undergoing cancer treatment.

That convinced Sardone to form Cleaning for a Reason, which in the past decade has helped more than 21,000 cancer patients through more than 1,200 cleaning companies across North America. Each cleaning service volunteers time and staff to clean two homes per month, free of cost. Once matched with a local outlet such as Spotless Service, each patient is eligible to have her house cleaned once a month for up to four months while she is going through treatment.

Marybell Ruiz, 34, underwent a chemotherapy session the day before the Yankees paid their visit. She was diagnosed last year with Stage 4 colon cancer, the same disease that took her mother at the age of 28 and also claimed the lives of her grandmother and two aunts.

“It is a genetic condition in my family,” Marybell said. “Amaya is only nine years old and has already been checked regularly.”

“Cleaning the bathroom is most difficult for patients, scrubbing down shower walls and cleaning toilets,” Sardone said. “It helps to get them back in control of their lives when the house looks and smells cleaner.”

“What they are doing is great,” Beltran said. “It is important to help other people.”

Starlin Castro, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury in the kitchen with Evelyn Rodriguez.

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