Staffords pledge $1 million to build education center in Detroit for kids, teens, adults

Detroit Free Press

Slone Terranella | Detroit Free Press

As NFL quarterback Matthew Stafford prepares to leave the Detroit Lions and join his new team in Los Angeles, the Stafford family couldn’t depart Detroit without leaving a piece of them here.

Stafford and his wife, Kelly, pledged $1 million to help build a new education center with SAY Detroit, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students from low-income families overcome literacy inequalities and educational challenges.

[ Mitch Albom: Matthew Stafford gave Lions ‘every damn thing I had,’ still torn over exit ]

This campaign and hefty pledge will build “The Kelly and Matthew Stafford & Friends Education Center” in Detroit’s Lipke Park, a news release said.

The Staffords’ new education center will be on the grounds of SAY Detroit’s Play Center, and it’ll include six classrooms, learning labs and vocational training space, according to a release. The anticipated 20,000-square-foot facility will also have an auditorium.

The new center and space will allow SAY Detroit, founded by Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, to expand its other programs aimed not only at kids but at teens and adults as well, the release said.

“We’ve been partnered with SAY Play for a while now, and we know how well-run it is,” Matthew Stafford told the Free Press. “This new education center speaks to our wanting to be involved with Detroit for future years. It’s something that we can be proud of, something we can come back and visit, and also something that hopefully teaches our daughters a lesson down the road.

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“That if you’re blessed with the ability to give back, you’ve got to do it, and you should feel great about doing it,” he said. “If you have the opportunity to change somebody’s life, even one kid’s life, you should do it.”

Kelly Stafford also said the education center will help adults with job training initiatives such as GED classes and community events. The Staffords’ education center will enable SAY Play to increase its student population by implementing new art, computer and academic programs throughout the building.

“Detroit and its people have blessed us in so many ways,” Kelly Stafford said in a release. “We only hope you, Detroit, have felt our gratitude through our joy of giving back to the city. As we sat down to figure how to thank you one last time, we felt like words weren’t sufficient. And so we have teamed up with Mitch Albom to create a new elite Education Center that will be attached to the SAY Play Center in Detroit.”

Albom started SAY Detroit in 2006. The organization plans to break ground for the education center’s construction in the near future.

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In 2015, the Staffords met with Albom and ended up pledging a seven-figure commitment to building a professional-grade football field, now called the Stafford Field, in Lipke Park. The NFL family also helped to fund SAY Detroit’s academic enrichment center back in 2015, a release said.

To help gather the $2 million budget for the project, the Staffords invite other “friends” to donate and be recognized as co-builders of the new center.

According to the news release, companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Forbes Co. have pledged and joined the campaign already. The nonprofit is accepting all donations, individual or corporate, at

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The Staffords have been fixtures in Detroit since Matthew was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL draft. For them, the connection to the city and its people is deep and heartfelt.

“This is the legacy we want to leave behind,” Kelly Stafford said in the released statement.

“You will always remember Matthew Stafford as a Detroit Lions quarterback, but our hope is that you will also remember our family for our love of the Detroit community and its people,” Kelly Stafford wrote in an Instagram post Thursday afternoon.

“Thank you Detroit, for everything.”

Matthew Stafford came to Detroit in 2009, setting franchise records with passes, touchdowns and yards. In an interview with Albom, Stafford said, “I can leave here knowing that I gave this team every damn thing I had.”

Contact Slone Terranella at and follow her on Twitter @SloneTerranella. 

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