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For some, getting 1,100 people to your first event would be considered a huge success; not for Ed Deeb though.

“We weren’t happy with that amount—we were going to drop the event,” said Deeb, co-founder and chairman of Metro Detroit Youth Day. “Then we thought, ‘Let’s give it one more try.’”

Good thing they did because the following year there were over 12,000 boys and girls at Metro Detroit Youth Day. Since then, it has only grown more…and more and more. Last year’s event had over 34,000 attendees between the ages of 8 and 15, and is now considered the largest youth day event in Michigan. 

Youth Day 3On Wednesday, July 12th, Metro Detroit Youth Day celebrates its 35th anniversary at Belle Isle Park Athletic Field, where it started all those years ago.

Following a series of altercations in 1980 on Livernois Avenue in Detroit between 12 young people and the grocery stores from which they had been stealing alcohol—which left two youngsters and one store owner dead—former Mayor Coleman A. Young gave Deeb a call. He asked Deeb if he would talk to the angry store owners and help him try to bring peace back to the community.

“I said, ‘Ok, you got a deal,’” Deeb remembers. “So we did end it and thought, ‘What can we do to help these kids?’” 

Shortly after that, Deeb, Tom Fox of WJBK-TV, and Jerry Blocker of WWJ Radio formed Metro Detroit Youth Day. They wanted to show the youth in Detroit that they were respected and appreciated. 

“We’re trying to inspire our kids to do the most good,” he said.

Youth Day 2This year, the event will have over 50 different activities for kids to participate in, including various sports clinics, contests, races, entertainment, and educational activities. There will also be mini-workshops on anti-bullying, fighting crime, anti-obesity, and entrepreneurship. Deeb hopes that those entrepreneurial workshops will inspire kids to go out into the world, become their own boss, and then come back to Michigan and be future leaders.

Not only does Metro Detroit Youth Day have a day full of fun activities, but they also do a mock graduation ceremony for those receiving college scholarships. The Michigan Youth Appreciation Foundation, which Deeb founded in 1991, has given out over 1,500 scholarships since their inception. It will give 110 out this year.

While the event has grown over the years—and received numerous state and national awards for its achievements—the core of it has stayed the same: showing boys and girls that they matter.

“We want the kids to have confidence that they can go into a job or go into school and do well and continue to do well in whatever they do,” Deeb said. “It’s that kind of thing that motivates us.”Youth Day 5

All photos courtesy of Metro Detroit Youth Day.

Metro Detroit Youth Day is Wednesday, July 12th, from 8:30am to 2:30pm at Belle Isle Park. To register for the event, or find out more information, click here.