For many, Metro Detroit Youth Day will be a day of fun. For others, it will be a life-changing experience.
More than one million kids from all walks of life have jumped, danced, participated in sports and constructive activities and just plain had fun since Metro Detroit Youth Day was founded in 1981. This year 35,000 youngsters are expected to show up for the event on Wednesday, July 13 from 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Belle Isle’s athletic fields.
Along with giving the kids a good time, Metro Detroit Youth Day’s goal is to show them business people, the community and the food industry care about and respect them.
“Metro Detroit Youth Day is about people and organizations working together to make a good impression on the kids, show them we care and provide them a fun day filled with supervised, constructive activities,” says Ed Deeb, founder and chairman of Metro Detroit Youth Day and founder of the Michigan Food and Beverage Association. “We want safe schools free of crime and bullying. Youth Day will have a wide range of activities emphasizing sportsmanship, education, fair play and leadership. It’s a great way to focus their energy in a positive manner.”
For Detroit native Bruce Ross, who attended the very first one, Youth Day was a turning point in his life.
“Metro Detroit Youth Day saved my life,” says Ross. “I was at a crossroads where I could have easily turned to crime or drugs, but at that first Youth Day I saw people of all races showing respect and love to me and the other kids. Mr. Deeb introduced me to my boyhood hero, Detroit Lions Hall of Famer Lem Barney. From that point forward, I knew I wanted to lead a positive life and I’ve never looked back.”
Ross went on to graduate from Pershing High School and became the first one in his family to graduate from college when he earned a degree from Wayne State University.
He has dedicated his time to providing the same opportunities for new generations. He is a member of the board of directors for Metro Detroit Youth Day and is working with Youth Day and The Michigan Appreciation Foundation. The latter allows him to give the chances he had to kids in Detroit and across the state.
For Ross, Youth Day made all the difference in the world.
The program has become the largest single day youth event in the region and uses the opportunity to entertain and help kids with a combination of sports clinics, education stations, entertainment and workshops for students focused on anti-crime, anti-bullying, health and wellness, entrepreneurship and a free lunch.
This year 1,600 volunteers and 350 community partners signed up to help make Belle Isle’s athletic fields a place for the youth to have a great summer day.
There will be sports clinics for martial arts, boxing, golf, track and field, soccer, lacrosse, bowling, football, basketball, and more. For kids who are football fans there is a special treat available. Detroit Lion Ron Rice and other NFL players will come to run drills and give instruction, courtesy of the NFL Alumni Detroit Chapter and the Gridiron Institute.
Players from the Wayne State football team will also be on hand to give assist and sign autographs.
Those who have natural interest and affinity for basketball are not out of luck. The Pistons will put on a sports clinic and seven Pistons will be onsite.
Of course, what good is physical strength, without mental muscle?
With that in mind, Michigan Youth Appreciation Foundation, Youth Day’s parent organization, will recognize area high school students for community and academic achievement and award more than 102 scholarships to deserving students who submitted an application and essay for consideration.
With the generous support of its sponsors, Michigan’s colleges and universities, companies, organizations and the general public Youth Day has awarded more than 1,200 scholarships since 1991.
For kids who are college bound, or at least desire to be, there is College Row. Chaired by John Ambrose of Michigan State University, this gives them a chance to learn more about many of Michigan’s institutes of higher learning, specifically Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Michigan State University, Oakland University, Saginaw Valley State University, University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.
“Our goal is to inspire our youth to do the most good, help our youth and provide more meaning to their lives and service to our communities, and go to college, graduate, and become our future leaders in Michigan,” Deeb says.
Over in the Education and Exhibit area kids can interact with organizations including Arts & Scraps, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Belle Isle Nature Zoo, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Detroit, Crime Stoppers of Michigan, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit PAL, Detroit Public Schools Foundation and more.
The day will begin with an opening ceremony with a procession led by The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Michigan State Police, Detroit Police Department, Department of Natural Resources, Crime Stoppers of Michigan and Boy Scouts of America. Well-known Detroit songstress Martha Reeves will perform the national anthem.
In addition, several youngsters will sing and dance for a chance at prizes on the Pepsi Stage during the 10th annual Youth Day Idol Contest.
This year Metro Detroit Youth Day will honor the following individuals for their support:
- Motown Legend, Martha Reeves
- NFL Hall-of-Famer Lem Barney
- Michigan Senator Steve Bieda
- Sam Abrams, Detroit Tigers
- John Ambrose, Michigan State University
- Charles Burke, Grosse Pointe War Memorial
- Louis Vescio, Metro Detroit Youth Day Chairman Emeritus
Metro Detroit Youth Day is a good day for kids, whether it is a life-changing day or just a simple good time. It’s also a good day for Detroit as these kids learn the importance of community service. That can only mean good things for our city.
For more information on Metro Detroit Youth Day, visit http://www.metrodetroityouthday.org/register.html or call (586) 393-8801.
– Photos courtesy of Metro Detroit Youth Day