Yankees captain Derek Jeter lifts Li’l Jeter’s heart with presents, letter
by Edgar Sandoval and Samuel Goldsmith, NY Daily News
It’s been a great October for both Bronx Jeters.
Little Jeter Villacis, the 16-month-old heart transplant patient named after the Yankees captain, will finally leave Montefiore Medical Center after two months in intensive care.
And Derek Jeter is giving the family another reason to celebrate with the team’s first World Series berth since 2003.
After reading about little Jeter in the Daily News, the shortstop sent him a Yankee care package with a heartfelt note of encouragement.
“Life is a daily challenge, some more challenging than others, but you are a true star for giving it your all and I strongly admire your strength and courage,” Jeter wrote.
Along with the letter was a Yankees backpack stuffed full of goodies like a Yanks doll, team clothes, hats and a book.
The slugger also thanked little Jeter and his parents for supporting the team.
“It means a lot to me to have a strong supporting cast,” he wrote. “You should know that I support and encourage you and your positive efforts as well.”
Little Jeter’s parents, Robert Villacis, 35, and Vanessa Franco, 23, handed the gifts to their little boy, which put a smile on the brave kid’s face.
“We are very thankful that Jeter took time to write a letter and send us gifts,” said Robert Villacis. “I did not expect this. I wish Jeter more luck in baseball so that he can continue helping children.”
Little Jeter underwent a nine-hour surgery two weeks ago to replace his failing heart. His parents had feared the worst when doctors diagnosed the boy with a dangerously enlarged heart during a routine checkup in August.
He was admitted to Montefiore right away and has been there since. His surgeon, Dr. Samuel Weinstein, said yesterday the boy should make a complete recovery.
The dad lost his construction job during the two-month ordeal and moved his wife and 2-year-old son to a family shelter in the Bronx while he looks for work.
“It’s a little nerve-racking, but I know we will be back on track,” he said.
“Right now, what matters is that Jeter is getting better and that the other Jeter cares.”