2024 NFL Draft to Leave Lasting Impact on Detroit Community Through $1M Living Legacy Initiative
By: Dana Wakiji for the Detroit Sports Commission
DETROIT — After a football-filled weekend at Ford Field, from the traditional Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game to the eight Michigan High School Athletic Association championship football games, Monday brought another unique football event to the already festive stadium.
The Detroit Sports Commission and Visit Detroit celebrated the milestone of 150 days until the city of Detroit and its surrounding communities welcome the world for the 2024 NFL Draft from April 25-27.
Joining the Detroit Sports Commission and Visit Detroit were Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Police Chief James E. White, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance COO Kai Bowman, President of Rocket Companies Bill Emerson and W.K. Kellogg Foundation Michigan Director Faye Nelson.
Nelson had an important announcement about an initiative that is designed to last long after next April’s draft.
“We are committed to using this opportunity to make a positive and enduring impact on our community as a legacy of the draft in Detroit,” Nelson said. “When we presented our bid for the 2024 draft to the NFL, a central component of our proposal, championed by the Detroit Sports Commission and our esteemed partners and stakeholders, was a robust legacy commitment to our local community.
“And thanks to the incredible generosity of our local civic, corporate and philanthropic communities, the Detroit Sports Commission and Visit Detroit are proud to contribute $1 million towards the launch of a living-legacy initiative. These funds will be directed towards existing programs that address the youth literacy gap in Detroit and fostering the need for active play among our youth, including girls’ sports.”
A committee of community leaders selected Beyond Basics, a literacy non-profit, and Project Play, a program started by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, as the inaugural non-profit partners.
According to Beyond Basics President Pam Good, 93% of children in Detroit are not proficient in reading, 63,000 kids in Oakland County are not proficient in reading and statewide more than 56% are not proficient in reading. It’s a problem that doesn’t just affect metro Detroit but the entire country.
“We’re hoping that this helps spark a movement because we also know very well, we’ve been getting kids reading grade-level in an average of 6-10 weeks for over a decade,” Good said. “So although the stats are horrible, there is a solution, there is a recipe. When it’s rolled out, kids become readers in a remarkably short period of time.
“I think the legacy that they want to spark here is just so essential because there’s so many kids that need it. So we’re very, very thankful.”
Dave Beachnau, Detroit Sports Commission Executive Director, said the Detroit Sports Commission wanted to create a sustainable program that can touch each of the major events coming to town over the next several years, including the NFL Draft and the 2027 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
“The pandemic, I think in particular, set all of our kids back in a lot of ways but literacy is a big part of that,” Beachnau said. “We thought, first and foremost, let’s put some resources toward that initiative. Then, youth sports participation is also important, from a sports sampling standpoint, from a girls standpoint, and coaches. We have a lot of youth coaches that could use some training. As a parent and a coach, when my kids were growing up, I wished I had some development opportunities. I think those are all important things for our community.”
The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan partnered with the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation and the Aspen Institute to start Project Play.
“The idea is to get kids more active,” said Randy Ross, Vice President of Donor Services at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. “There’s been a lot of different support for youth sports organizations, things like sports sampling where kids can go to a library and check out maybe some equipment that maybe they hadn’t experienced before, learn how to play certain sports that maybe they hadn’t participated in previously, just encourage more active participation. They’re also starting to fold in more academic enrichment as well. This notion of healthy mind, healthy body is really a nice part of it.
“So it’s exciting to be part of this initiative and really thinking long-term about what the Detroit Sports Commission is going to do to help young people stay active.”
After the media event, 150 Detroit Public Schools Community District students had a chance to participate in an active play session on the same field where the Lions play, facilitated by the Detroit Lions’ youth football staff.
In the coming weeks, the Detroit Sports Commission and Visit Detroit will reveal more details about the neighborhood engagement program, which will have pre-Draft events held at Parks & Recreation facilities in the seven districts of the City of Detroit, and the footprint of the NFL Draft Experience at Hart Plaza and other interactive experiences at Campus Martius Park.
“We’re not only wanting to have a great party but we want to leave a lasting imprint on the importance of this city and supporting, especially our children, here in Detroit and the tri-County area,” Nelson said. “So we’re excited, we’re looking forward to launching this community initiative and we look forward to it being hugely beneficial to our community.”
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