By now you’ve probably heard we are running a year-end contest, (if you haven’t entered yet follow this link for your chance at the Grand Prize) but one of our favorite contests this year was a little one. It was called Random Packs of Kindness. All you had to do was something nice for someone else and you were entered for a chance to win some nice football cards. We have a story that easily could have been an entry and an amazing act of kindness.
Tony Apuzzi is an avid baseball fan and a collector of MLB player autographs. He’s put together a collection of over 600 autographed baseballs and photos. Apazzi is also a teacher and enjoys his profession as much as collecting. But he developed a special relationship with one of his students, and at first she wasn’t the teacher’s pet or star pupil. Jasalle Ruiz was a rowdy sixth-grader when they first met.
"She acted out all the time," said Apuzzi. "If I told her to sit down, she stood up. If I told her to pay attention, her mind wandered."
But eventually Apazzi broke through to Ruiz and that changed the course of the young girl’s life.
On the day that Apuzzi left the school for another job, Ruiz's grandmother approached him with an unusual request.
"You've changed my granddaughter's life. You've changed her," she said. "Please remain a part of her life after you leave."
The teacher and student kept in touch. Years later Apazzi found out that his favorite student was accepted to nursing school at College of New Rochelle, but could not attend because even with financial aid, she was still $30,000 short.
At the time Apuzzi was out of work. Still, he still went into his autograph collection, pulled out legendary players like Sandy Koufax, Joe Morgan and the 1996 Atlanta Braves roster, as well as the 1998, 1999 and 2000 championship Yankees teams and sold them for about $3,000 and gave the money to Ruiz which paid for her to stay in school for the fall semester on the promise that she find a way to keep attending Nursing School.
"This is a kid who had to settle for second best her whole life, and all of a sudden she had a chance to go somewhere good," said Apuzzi "I wanted that for her. I didn't want it to slip away."
"Nobody has ever done what he has done for me," said Jasalle Ruiz. "He's always been there when I needed him."
But the story gets better. Apuzzi's friend wrote to the Yankees, telling them of Ruiz's problems and what Apuzzi did for her.
One day there was a knock at Apuzzi’s door,. He opened it and standing there was Yankee Great, Mariano Rivera. Rivera was there to personally give Apuzzi a check for $6,000 from his foundation for Ruiz’s tuition.
"They helped to keep a young lady's dream alive," said Apuzzi.
"It's a great honor to be helped by Mariano Rivera," added Ruiz. "If it wasn't for him, I don't know how I would have come up with the money."
So the question is do you think you could do the same? Would you dip into your collection, pull your biggest hits and sell them to help out a friend?