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Bringing back the roar to Detroit and its neighborhoods through the Detroit Lions “Living for the City” program

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The Detroit Lions want to bring back the roar to Detroit and they have a plan to do it.

Linebacker Tahir Whitehead plays four-square at Detroit Lions Academy during Hometown Huddle, a league-wide day of service

Linebacker Tahir Whitehead plays four-square at Detroit Lions Academy during Hometown Huddle, a league-wide day of service

Sure, they want to roar into the Super Bowl next January but there is so much more to the team than football. Last year the Lions launched an entirely new community engagement strategy in an effort to make a stronger and more lasting impact in Detroit from a grass roots level. The team’s Living for the City initiative now focuses on sustainable community health, wellness, and development in the city of Detroit, and the team and its players are totally involved.

“Living for the City is a reflection of the Detroit Lions’ commitment to Detroit’s resurgence and our focus on areas of critical need,” said team president Tom Lewand. “It supports innovative citizen philanthropy and promotes personal and community wellbeing. The Detroit Lions organization is excited for the potential that Living for the City continues to offer for making a real difference in the community we all call home.”

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To publicly show their commitment to Detroit the team took out a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press. The ad simply says “One Detroit. One pride.”

“Everybody makes comparisons between the Lions and Detroit and all those things. I’d like those comparisons to be resiliency, blue-collar, hard work, toughness,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “I think those are the things that are most important about the city of Detroit. And those are the things that I hope the Lions reflect in that.”

Through Living for the City, the Detroit Lions aligned itself with organizations that support innovative citizen philanthropy and promote personal and community wellbeing.

Matt Stafford at a Living for the City Playworks session in Easter Market's Shed 3

Matt Stafford at a Living for the City Playworks session in Easter Market’s Shed 3

“People here are fantastic, and that’s what makes me want to give back and help out, and I’m just lucky enough to play for an organization like the Lions that’s willing to give us a platform like “Living for the City” that makes it easy for players to go out and give back,” said Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford when the initiative was announced last September.

So what are some of their examples of how the team is getting involved?

The Lions are participating in year two of Challenge Detroit and will host a fellow for one year beginning in August. I bet the 33 young people chosen as fellows this year are fighting over his one.

Rob Sims at the Lunch with the Lions program at Eastern Market

Rob Sims at the Lunch with the Lions program at Eastern Market

The Lions work with D:hive to encourage fans to explore the greater downtown Detroit area and experience the many downtown bars and restaurants on game day.

They are also partnering with Come Play Detroit to provide exciting opportunities for downtown employees to transform Ford Field into an indoor playground for adult yoga, kickball, etc. Speaking of Ford Field, it is source for the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation’s D2D initiative. That program encourages Detroit business to buy more from each other. The DEGC says it could add 7,700 more jobs and increase their revenue by $2.5 billion over the next ten years and help rebuild the city’s economy.

If that wasn’t enough, here are some of other programs the team supports:

  • Detroit Lions Academy: An alternative public middle school located in Detroit’s east side that supports at-risk students experiencing challenges in traditional educational settings.  During the 2013-14 school year the Lions will provide a number of ancillary programming elements, including weekly Playworks Detroit recess sessions, yoga conducted by the Yoga By Design Foundation, community garden program, and a fully integrated health and wellness curriculum sponsored Walgreens, the official pharmacy of the Detroit Lions.
  • Playworks Detroit: In accordance with the Lions Play 60 program, Playworks Detroit encourages play as a way to help kids make the right choices when it comes to respecting and including others. During the school year, trained program coordinators work with students at the Detroit Lions Academy and Detroit Public Schools.
    Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson during a Playworks session at the launch of Living for the City in Eastern Market last year

    Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson during a Playworks session at the launch of Living for the City in Eastern Market last year

  • Eastern Market Corporation: In an effort to address food insecurity and food access in the city of Detroit, the Lions will continue to partner with Eastern Market on the second annual Lunch with the Lions program. The program provides vouchers for fresh foods from Eastern Market, Lions Play 60 recess sessions and cooking lessons from Chef Joe Nader at Ford Field to students at the Detroit Public Schools.  The program also includes a Lions player or alumni speaking to students about the importance of healthy eating, followed by a tour of the market with the students. The program is held every Tuesday, September thru October, at Eastern Market and is a component of Tuesday’s at Eastern Market.
  • Hatch Detroit: Hatch Detroit and the Lions are partnering to help Detroit neighborhoods, which are a critical component of the revitalization of the region, shine a spotlight on entrepreneurs who contribute to the community, keep their surrounding areas safe and clean, and are an asset to the neighborhood and its growth. In 2013, the focus has been on The Avenue of Fashion (Livernois, between Seven and Eight Mile Roads). Future neighborhood initiatives will take place in the Villages, North End, Grandmont-Rosedale, Southwest Detroit and Corktown.
    Halftime event (December 22 vs. Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field) where the Lions celebrated/promoted Playworks

    Halftime event (December 22 vs. Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field) where the Lions celebrated/promoted Playworks

  • Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit: Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit and the Detroit Lions will once again join forces on “Rock for Jobs.” “Rock for Jobs” is a celebration of Detroit’s musical past and present, and a collaboration to support and create a brighter economic future for the city of Detroit and a fundraiser to support job training, education and placement programs that put Metro Detroiters back to work. The concert brings together many of the stars who built and continue contributing to the city’s reputation for being musically renowned.  Details for this year’s concert will be available in the coming months.

“We remain optimistic about Detroit’s future,” Lewand said. “The entire Lions and Ford Field team, both on and off the field, will continue our efforts to make positive contributions to our community’s next great chapter.”

It’s exciting to bring back the roar… on the field, and off.

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