More than 35,000 children are expected to pack Belle Isle on Wednesday for the annual Metro Detroit Youth Day.
Rain is threatening a portion of the days events, but the concern for organizers — per it’s founder Ed Deeb — is to put on the best event possible. This year that includes serving a breakfast to all 35,000+ children. That’s in addition to a lunch, games, contests, music, awards and scholarships.
It’s safe to say that Metro Detroit Youth Day is the envy of most nonprofits.
“We try to inspire our kids to do the right thing,” said Deeb, the chairman of the event. “We want them to get in the right direction: go to school, get good grades, go on to college and then come back to Michigan as our future leaders.”
If it sounds like a tall task, you likely don’t know how far the event has come under Deeb’s guidance.
Youth Day began as a reaction to a deadly shooting that happened on Livernois between 6 and 7 mile back in 1980. Two kids were killed, a store owner was shot and killed too.
Deeb told 7 Action News that the mayor was calling him up asking what they would do. In 1981 they hosted their first-ever event. Deeb viewed it as a failure because only 1,100 people showed up. He had bigger plans, and by the following year 12,000 children showed up.
“We got together and said, ‘Look, the kids are not getting the right training,’”explained Deeb.
He, and his co-workers, envisioned an event packed with fun and mentorship opportunities. An event that simultaneously took kids off the street and reinforced positive behavior, and reaching for goals.
That image is in full view more than two decades later. As Deeb noted, one of the speakers at the event’s prayer breakfast earlier this year was a woman who attended the very first event. Once a face in the crowd of 1,100 in 1981 she now owns a dental practice. It’s the exact type of success story Metro Detroit Youth Day is supposed to be about.