Metro Detroit Youth Day in Detroit brings out the kid in everyone

Kaitlyn Luckoff
The Detroit News

It was called Metro Detroit Youth Day, but some of the older kids (adults) might have enjoyed themselves as much, watching children play, eat and learn new activities Wednesday on Belle Isle.

The rain this year stop the race to try everything.

Erin Rosario of St. Clair Shores brought her two children for the first time. They were excited to see a poster by her son, Jayden, on display. He created it during an activity that encouraged kids to appreciate and care for nature in their communities.

Dancers Jerrel Willis, left, and Taylor Peeples perform at the Metro Detroit Youth Day on Wednesday.

" ...He participated in an "Cyberchase Green It Up"-themed activity sponsored by PBS," Rosario said.  "... We're just excited to be here today."

Children from Metro Detroit, ages 8- 15, gathered from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. for entertainment, educational activities, games and food. 

Kickoff took place at 10 a.m. with a free breakfast.

Alexa Edmonds-Jasso called out "hallelujah" after the rain stopped and the sun peered through clouds. Attending Youth Day for the first time, too, Alexa said she couldn't choose one favorite part.

"I got a shirt from Michigan State University," Alexa said. "My favorite thing about it was everything, just everything." 

Sports clinics and activities such as corn hole, a potato sack race and pie eating were offered. Paws from the Detroit Tigers also paid a visit. 

The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and other colleges were on hand to promote higher education.

The event was founded nearly 40 years ago by business leader Ed Deeb.

Juelz Delaney plays Connect Four at  Youth Day on Belle Isle.

Deeb's niece, Christine Waters volunteered this year with her family for the first time.

"We've seen (the event) grow for a long time," Waters said. "Our parents have been volunteers for the past 38 years. We've watched this since we were little kids. It's really been awesome."

Derek Ware has been a member of the Youth Day planning committee for about 20 years. 

""It's always good to give back, particularly when it involves our youth," Ware said. "It gives them something to do, it takes them off the street for the day, and they get an opportunity to meet different vendors, different colleges, the Fire Department, the Police Department, so it gives a different outlook for the day."

Ariel Usrey, 13, came to the event with her teachers, and said science activities were the highlight for her during her first trip to Youth Day, which receives donations from more than 100 organizations. 

Bimbo Bakeries USA has been sponsoring Youth Day for five years. Along with financial donations, their tent provides snacks for the snack bags as well as games including corn hole and a prize wheel.

Malik Spencer, 14, left, and Bryan Davis, 10, play Corn Hole at the event Wednesday.

"These kids are having so much fun, lots of laughs, everybody has been cooped up and this is the first year being back since COVID, so I think that it's really important to get out here and show these kids that they can have fun again," said Jennifer Burnside, who works for the bakery.

Jayden, meanwhile, had exploring to do.

"I haven't done a lot yet, so I don't know (my favorite part) yet," he said.