Rivera honored by MVP Foundation in Trenton

08/07/2014 9:19 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Mariano Rivera poses for a photo before the Trenton Thunder's game Thursday night.(David Schofield/Trenton Thunder)
TRENTON - Thursday's MVP Foundation Event at ARM & HAMMER Park marked the second time this season that Dr. Tom Haveron and his foundation saluted a reliever who spent his entire career in Yankees pinstripes.

It wasn't an active Yankee being honored this time, and it didn't come at Yankee Stadium like Haveron's donation of $10,000 to frequent MVP honoree David Robertson and his High Socks for Hope Foundation on June 27 was - but with all due respect to the current American League leader in saves, this event might have been a little bigger in scope.

Because this time, it was the greatest closer of all-time getting some post-career props from Haveron.

Mariano Rivera was the guest of honor at MVP's fourth-annual celebration in Trenton, with Haveron and the Foundation gifting The Sandman $50,000 for his own charitable endeavors, as well as his brand-new Refugio de Esperanza (Refuge of Hope) church in New Rochelle, N.Y.

"I'm a big fan of Mariano's, not just because of the way he pitches, but also because of the way he conducts himself off the field," Haveron said. "He's just amazing, and I wish in my lifetime I can do one-tenth of what he's done. He's one of the most amazing people ever."

"He's a great unique individual, very humble, and it really was surreal," added David Shepard, VP of Operations for the New Jersey Spine Centers, one of MVP's top sponsors. "He's a very inviting man, and it's great to work with him."

When Rivera was in Double-A two decades ago, the team was in Albany, but that didn't stop him from soaking in thunderous applause from the capacity crowd in Trenton - nor did it make the night any less special in terms of his philanthropic endeavors.

"It's a privilege to be here. Although I never played here, the Thunder are a part of the Yankees family, and if they're part of the Yankees, they're part of me," Rivera said. "I'm privileged to be here."

Dr. Haveron began the MVP Foundation in 2011, its mission to advance health by empowering people to seek higher education in the industry and by providing training, care, and wellness activities in communities of need. The foundation also provides a chance for sick children to attend sporting events as a way to escape the day-to-day reality of treatment.

Now four years strong, the Foundation has a strong sponsorship partnership with the Spine Centers of America, and both Shepard and medical director Dr. Bryan J. Massoud were glad to join Haveron in Trenton, as they did with Robertson's presentation at Yankee Stadium.

"Doc is one of the hardest-working, most dedicated individuals I've ever met, and he shows his passion by his effort. He's always looking for new opportunities and ways to grow his foundation, and that's how we began working together," Dr. Massoud said. "We share a similar vision, being able to give back to our communities and the kids and put a smile on their face."

Added Shepard: "He brings so much energy every day, you can't help but absorb some of it. He makes you stronger, and it's been a really cohesive effort since we re-synced with each other recently."

This year's event was doubly philanthropic, as it coincided with the Thunder's celebration of HOPE Week. Thursday's honoree was eight-year-old Isabel Julian, who volunteers at a local multi-service agency for runaway, homeless, abused, and at-risk youth and their families called Anchor House, and Haveron was delighted to share the day with that endeavor as well.

"HOPE Week is so important for the Yankees, so to here today is amazing," Haveron said. "All of the Yankees organizations do so much to give back, and it's wonderful to be part of it."

And as great as the day was for the Thunder, the MVP Foundation, and its sponsors in a professional sense, it was also great for many of them personally, too; like Dr. Haveron, Dr. Massoud is a lifelong Yankee fan, so being able to stand on the field with one of the greatest pinstripers of all-time brought a smile to both his face and his heart.

"The first time I went to Yankee Stadium, I think it was 1972, so I was seven years old. I've been a Yankee fan my whole life, and it's kind of surreal to be able to work with Mariano and bring something to him. He's done so much for so many others, but to be able to help him is incredible. His personal story is inspiring, and just having shared moments with him, you get a feel for the quality man he is. We can't wait to work with him again in the future."

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