Metro Detroit Youth Day celebrates kids being kids on Belle Isle
Detroit — Between bites of ice cream, 10-year-old Quintin Allen-Powers showed off a prize he earned Wednesday.
"I got this medal when I was racing," said Allen-Powers of Detroit of the medal reading "Detroit 2018" for completing a relay race earlier in the day.
The boy stood among thousands of other children laughing and playing at Belle Isle Park on Wednesday. All were there for the same reason: to celebrate being kids.
The 36th annual Metro Detroit Youth Day, hosted by the Michigan Youth Appreciation Foundation, attracted around 40,000 children. That's the largest crowd the nonprofit organization has seen yet, according to founder Ed Deeb.
Children could be seen sparring in a boxing ring, throwing footballs and trying other sports such as baseball, tennis, golf and martial arts. There was a stage for speakers at the opening ceremony that was then turned over to the children. Several took the stage to sing and perform for parents and other kids looking on from nearby bleachers.
Perhaps the most recognizable face at Belle Isle Wednesday was musician and actor, Ice Cube, who stopped by to speak with kids and play basketball. He posted a video of his visit to his Twitter account with a caption reading "Hanging with youngsters in Detroit at Youth Day. Got nothing but love."
Among the games and activities were booths for multiple colleges on "College Row," several tents for agencies such as the FBI and Detroit Fire Department, and multiple health agencies.
Kenya Allen was there with her son, Quintin, and step-son, Erik Julks, 12.
"I think it teaches them about things that they don't normally see like they got to do the fingerprint with the FBI," Allen said. "It's just showing community and getting out from the video games and the cellphones for a few minutes."
The FBI has been a partner of the Metro Detroit Youth Day for 16 years.
It had various activities to demonstrate how science, technology, engineering and math are used to solve crimes, according to Tim Wiley, an FBI spokesman. That included a fingerprint station, a station allowing kids to use metal detectors and an obstacle course.
Erik said he enjoyed the activities that the FBI had set up as well as seeing the different college booths.
One of several colleges present was Davenport University based in Grand Rapids. Lisa Howze, vice president for Detroit campuses and strategic partnerships, said she believes the children's "first impressions are lasting impressions."
"We’re here because we know the importance of exposing young children to education at an early age," Howze said. "When I was in grade school, the very first school that I saw or heard from was the one that I aspired to go to, so Davenport University wants to help children understand that higher education is available for them and inspire them just to think bigger."
The youth day event began in 1981 with around 1,100 kids. More than 1.7 million kids have participated since its inception.
Jennifer Kluge, Deeb's daughter, has been assisting with the youth day for around 20 years. She said the annual day is a chance to make a difference in the community.
"We're telling the kids of Detroit that we care about them, that they have a bright future ahead and that a lot of adults are out here supporting them and giving them exposure to things to inspire them," Kluge said.
"When you look at this field and you see all of these kids running around with smiles on their face, it lasts a lifetime"