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Metro Detroit Youth Day draws thousands to Belle Isle

As 9-year-old Nathaniel Bass banged his drumsticks against a plastic drum, a smile spread across his face. The boy began to lose himself in the rhythm as music teacher Charlie Fallis demonstrated to an audience of kids how to play in sync with one another.

Nathaniel’s drumming lesson was just one activity that thousands of youngsters could enjoy Wednesday at the annual Metro Detroit Youth Day on Belle Isle.

Youth Day is a free, annual event that attracts Michiganders from ages 8 to 15. On Wednesday, about 37,000 people attended the event, according to organizers, and took part in activities such as sports clinics with professional Detroit athletes, talent shows, character-building workshops and informational sessions hosted by 12 universities.

Taneshe Vernon, a mother of two, enjoyed the wide array of stations at the park. Her 7-year-old son, Noah Mitchell, spent most of his day playing football and getting tips from
former Detroit Lions player Damian Gregory.

Edward Deeb, founder of the Food and Beverage Association, started Metro Detroit Youth Day in 1980 to improve relationships between store owners and community members following the killings of a grocery store owner and two teenagers.

“We had a dozen youngsters go into these party stores and convenience stores, stealing and running out,” he said. “In two weeks, we had two youngsters and one adult shot and killed.”

Deeb, along with former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, established Metro Detroit Youth Day to “give Detroit youth(s) something important to do and get them interested in bettering themselves.”

The event’s success began to gain traction, and as a result, caught the attention of former President George H.W Bush and the White House in 1990, earning Youth Day leaders the Point of Light Award.

This year’s event had more than 1,000 volunteers and 220 sponsors. These sponsors, along with the Michigan Youth Association Foundation, the parent organization of Youth Day, helped fund scholarships for metro Detroit students. There were 125 scholarships awarded at the event’s opening ceremony.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the event  “works (to better the community),  and I am excited to be here and support it.”

Volunteer Geri Jackson has worked at Youth Day since it was established. It “gives children a chance to socially interact with each other and gives adults a chance to work with them,” said Jackson.

This was the first Youth Day for 12-year old Troy Biggs.

“I came to Youth Day because I like trying new things, and I have never been here before,”  Troy said.

“I’ve literally been drumming since I was 5 months old, banging on pots and pans, so today was just fun. I liked drumming with the other kids,” Kanyea said.

“One thing I hope to get out of Youth Day is being able to learn new things with drumming so I can get big and take my drumming far.”

Source: Detroit Free Press