The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Announces $288,000 in Grants Awarded for Youth Sports from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

In Press Release

As the NFL Draft heads to Detroit this year, these grants will invest in youth sports to ensure Detroit youth have opportunities to participate. 

DETROIT, MI — Today, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (Community Foundation) joined the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and Detroit Sports Commission to announce $288,000 in grants to 15 youth sports organizations through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds, which focus on regional caregiving, design and access, and youth sports. Since the funds were established in 2016, more than 190 grants totaling $3.7 million have been awarded to youth sports and recreation organizations in southeast Michigan.

The Community Foundation through its initiative Project Play: Southeast Michigan is excited to announce these grants in advance of the 2024 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25 through April 27 in Detroit. Through these partnerships, the Community Foundation is building a community that empowers all its children to play sports and participate in physical activity in safe, enriching environments.

“Sports play a significant role in creating a healthy, successful lifestyle for young people. We encourage youth to become involved in safe and enriching sports at an early age so they can lead healthy lives.The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. grants are incredibly important in making that happen by supporting youth every step of the way. The grants are especially meaningful this year as Detroit hosts the 2024 NFL Draft. We look forward to watching our community thrive as a result of the generosity and dedication of all those involved,” says Richard (Ric) DeVore, President of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan.

This collaboration among local partners will be transformative for youth sports in Michigan and set the region and its youth up for long-term success.

“Project Play has been a transformational partner for Sheriff PAL, elevating our organization through ongoing learning opportunities and the sharing of best practices in the youth physical activity space. This grant will allow us to continue to build elementary based sports programs in the Pontiac area, ensuring children that may not be able to access sports due to transportation or financial barriers have a chance to play alongside their peers and build both friendships and sports skills. Bringing fun and development to the forefront of our programs helps kids stay engaged and unlocks the limitless potential of play. We can’t expect children in our communities to stay active when there are limited opportunities to explore new sports in accessible, exciting ways. Support from Project Play ensures we are able to do just that and encourages natural collaboration with other like minded partners to build a sustainable, comprehensive path to play for all youth in our region.” says Lauren Fuller, Executive Director of Oakland County Sheriff PAL.

 “The level of investment in our youth directly impacts the growth and sustainability of our communities. It is arguably the greatest investment a society can make. Project Play supports Figure Skating in Detroit’s investment in youth and mission to create a safe space for girls to build life-skills engaging in movement and play through the disciplined sport of figure skating. Our partnership with Project Play helps us to create programming that empowers girls to become the leaders of their communities through self-actualization, confidence and academic achievement as they build a foundation on ice to be champions in life! Thank you, Project Play for investing in a dream,” says Lori Ward, Executive Director of Figure Skating Detroit.

The following organizations received grants this year:

  • Chandler Park Conservancy
  • City of Port Huron (Teen Volleyball)
  • Clark Park Coalition
  • Detroit United Lacrosse Association
  • Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program
  • East Side Youth Sports Foundation
  • Figure Skating in Harlem, – Detroit
  • Free Bikes 4 Kidz
  • Friends of Detroit Rowing,
  • Great Lakes Regional Field Hockey,
  • Kids on the Go
  • LAHC-Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities
  • Sheriff PAL Program
  • Wendy Hilliard Foundation
  • YMCA of Monroe

The life trustees of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation established the endowment funds at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to support issues that were important to the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., a Detroit native and the founder and a longtime owner of the Buffalo Bills football team. Mr. Wilson recognized the importance and value of being active and playing sports beginning at a young age and into adulthood.

The endowed Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation are complementary to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s direct grantmaking efforts to create an immediate impact within the communities of southeast Michigan and Western New York. The Legacy Funds are a generous, important tool of support, particularly for a range of smaller and mid-sized nonprofit organizations. Grants from these funds are made annually, and information on the next round of grantmaking will be available this fall.

In 2017, only a fraction of youth in Southeast Michigan had access to safe, affordable sport options. As a result, the Community Foundation partnered with the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program to launch Project Play: Southeast Michigan. The initiative creates opportunities for youth to engage in sports and play regardless of race, ability or zip code. In just a few short years, Project Play: Southeast Michigan has made youth sports more accessible to all our children.


About the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan:

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development, and civic affairs. Since its inception, the foundation has distributed more than $1.4 billion through more than 85,000 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair, and Livingston counties. Visit to learn more. 

About the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation:

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect the devotion of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his beloved Buffalo Bills NFL team. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr.

Wilson provided that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. Based in Detroit, the Foundation began with a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable, and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information visit