Lions announce next wave of programs funded by social justice initiative

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — In January, the Detroit Lions launched a social justice program, backed by the team's players, owner Martha Ford and coach Matt Patricia, which would fund a three-pronged initiative: Sponsoring scholarship funding, social-education programs and medical aid and health assistance.

On Tuesday, the team announced a second wave of nine individual programs that would receive nearly $600,000 in funding in 2020 through the effort.

Taylor Decker

“Guys are more involved after the launch of Inspire Change," Lions offensive tackle Taylor Decker said. "Every Tuesday, you see guys physically out in the community and spending their free time with those in need. The financial aspect of giving back is obviously very important, but there’s another aspect to it of actually giving your time and being around to show your support. Guys come to this team from all different socio-economic backgrounds, and we come to this city and it becomes our home. It’s important for us as members of this community to give back – to go and physically be there for others.”

The nine programs targeted for grants are the Detroit Lions Academy, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Detroit Public Safety Foundation, Downtown Boxing Gym, HAVEN – Redefine Program, The Empowerment Plan, Pure Heart Foundation, Detroit Justice Center, and CATCH. 

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"We chose organizations that were right here in Detroit, right in our reach, where we could see the impact that it’s having within the organization and in the city," Lions linebacker Devon Kennard said in a statement. "Over the last year, we wanted to see the fruits of what we gave financially and also our time. We want to spend time with these organizations and people that we’re trying to help. This is something we can stay connected to and monitor the progress along the way."

Kennard's own work with Detroit's Midnight Golf program, among other charitable outlets, earned him the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination this year, which honors a players off-field contributions combined with on-field excellence. 

Here's a brief description of each program:

► Detroit Lions Academy - Enrolls students in grades 6-8 that have faced challenges learning and engaging in traditional education settings.

► Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors - Offers compassionate care to those grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in our Armed Forces or as a result of his or her service. 

► Detroit Public Safety Foundation - The program empowers teens, ages 14-19, to build positive self-esteem, avoid violence/sexual assault, avoid depression and suicide and learn how to prepare for future employment. The year-long program includes weekly mentoring sessions facilitated by Detroit Police Department officers, using curriculum created with support from Detroit Public Schools, for students at seven participating high schools.

► Downtown Boxing Gym - By providing mentorship, tutoring, enrichment programs, college and career readiness, socio-emotional skills building and basic needs support (transportation and food), the organization creates a lasting impact that ripples out across the community. 

► HAVEN – Redefine Program - As Oakland County’s only comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, HAVEN provides shelter, counseling, advocacy and educational programming to nearly 30,000 people each year. The Redefine program is a 16-hour leadership development course for high school and college-aged young men to equip them with the skills to help end gender-based violence and to create healthier and happier emotional lives. 

► The Empowerment Plan - Aims to elevate families from the generational cycle of homelessness by hiring single parents from local homeless shelters and providing them training and full-time employment manufacturing sleeping bag coats for the homeless population. 

► Pure Heart Foundation - Designed to break the cycle of generational incarceration by providing wraparound services that will strategically benefit the child of an incarcerated parent and family. Through Pure Heart, each child of an incarcerated parent has a chance to be heard, supported and encouraged to navigate life despite their circumstance. 

► Detroit Justice Center - An innovative non-profit organization working alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system and promote equitable and just cities. DJC provides desperately-needed legal services to Detroiters impacted by the criminal justice system – helping clients remain out of jail, hold onto jobs and keep their families intact. 

► CATCH - A children’s charity founded in 1987 by then-Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson that raises money to help improve the quality of life for pediatric patients and their families at Children's Hospital of Michigan and Henry Ford Hospital. Through a series of corporate-sponsored annual events and a year-end giving program, the charity funds items and services that parents cannot afford, are not provided by the hospitals or not covered by insurance.