'One day at a time': Lions' Frank Ragnow to help grieving families with new foundation

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Bloomfield Hills — It's been over five years, and Frank Ragnow's still not over it.

He's here to tell you: That's OK.

Ragnow's dad, Jon (nicknamed "Rags"), died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2016, when the Detroit Lions' starting center was still at Arkansas.

With his new foundation, "Rags Remembers," Ragnow, a Minnesota native, is now trying to provide relief for kids and families who are grieving over the loss of a loved one by introducing them to the great outdoors.

Frank Ragnow

"Unfortunately, I think everybody will, at one point in their life, is gonna have grief," Ragnow said Thursday night at the inaugural 'Dine with the Pride' fundraising event at Eddie Merlot's in Bloomfield Hills.

"And to those kids, there is no timetable. There's no perfect way to get through it. I'm over five years out and I'm still getting through it and trying to figure it out. Just take it day by day, one day at a time and try to see the positive light."

The goal of Thursday's "Dine with the Lions" event, which featured special guest and Lions Pro Bowl lineman Jonah Jackson, was to raise money for Ragnow and his teammates to take grieving families out fishing. 

Attendees had the opportunity to bid on sign and game-used jerseys and helmets from Ragnow and his teammates, plus other memorabilia and the chance to go fishing with Ragnow himself.

Ragnow said he's been trying to get this foundation off the ground since joining the Lions as a first-round pick in 2018. Adjusting to life in the NFL proved to be a bigger distraction than he'd realized. But thanks to a season-ending toe injury that required surgery this past year, he finally got the plans in motion.

"There's a lot of down time when you're hurt, because you're kind of just a useless body when you get down to it," Ragnow said. "So, laying there and just kind of thinking about things, and really interviewing people and getting to know people to really help me out with this and make a plan and get it going, it was definitely beneficial."

Ragnow's relationship with his dad was centered on the outdoors: Hunting, fishing, the like. He best remembers going up to the family's cabin in Canada, which he said "you can only get to by boat (or) plane."

In turn, Ragnow's connection with nature has not only given him a chance to remain connected with his father, but also provides a place of solace as he works through his grief. He's hoping his new foundation will help other kids and families discover what a great tool the outdoors can be.

"I think there's so many kids that could use the outdoors," he said. "With this foundation, I really want to help out not only grieving families, grieving parents, grieving kids, but also disadvantaged kids who might not have access to the outdoors, and just give 'em access. It doesn't have to be fishing. It could be golfing, it could be archery, it could be anything in the outdoors.

"I just think with the way today's world is going, with all the technology and everything, the outdoors can be such a good outlet for people, and I think it can be something very special."

Twitter: @nolanbianchi