Yankees honor Saratoga man with first pitch, donation for effort helping Ukrainians

A man from Saratoga Springs got to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night.

Since the war in Ukraine started, Adam Israel has collected local money and letters for Ukrainian refugees escaping to Poland. His wife grew up in the country just west of Ukraine, and the two have a home and own a pub there.

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Wednesday night, Israel also received a $10,000 check from the Steinbrenner Foundation and the Yankees to continue his effort.

The effort has evolved into the organization ‘Letters of Hope for Ukraine,’ which delivers cards and supplies along with cash to refugees. As people fled Ukraine this winter, Israel drove people from the border, calling himself an ‘Uber’ of sorts, getting people to safety.

Israel has been over to Poland several times since February, bringing local donations and cards with messages of support from the Capital Region. He has also helped several refugee families settle into Saratoga.

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Thursday, he is flying back to Eastern Europe.

He says overseas, his efforts have shifted from helping people get out of Ukraine to helping the people who are still inside the war-torn country.

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“Now, what we’re really focusing on is helping people in Ukraine who for one reason or the other, didn’t have the ability to become refugees, whether that be for health reasons or the fact they just don’t want to leave Ukraine,” Israel said. “So there are people in Ukraine who are cut off, they don’t have supplies, they can’t just go buy supplies, and so we’re really going to focus on helping getting them the food, water, basic necessities that people need to survive.”

He says the people stuck under Russian occupation are cut off from the western part of the country where they can get supplies.

“If you are east of this line, this occupied line, Russia does not allow you to go west. So we work with families that are east of this line, alright how can they get west of this line? And then we tell them, if you can get west of this line, you will be taken care of. We will find you shelter, we will find you transportation, we will find you safe skies,” he said.

Letters of Hope for Ukraine is still collecting letters with messages of kindness, and ask for a cash donation of $20 inside. They can be dropped off at the Inn at Saratoga.

For more information, or to donate online, click here.