Matthew and Kelly Stafford return to Detroit for groundbreaking of new education center

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom was joined by former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife, Kelly, outside the SAY Detroit Play Center Friday to break ground on a new addition to the facility.

The Kelly and Matthew Stafford & Friends Education Center will represent a major expansion at the center, which was opened in 2015 by Albom’s nonprofit SAY Detroit. The center is an after-school facility for Detroit kids ages 8-18. It provides academic enrichment, sports, activities and mentoring for students from some of the city’s most underserved communities.

The ceremony opened with remarks from Albom, who said he’s thrilled at the success of the center and the prospect of its imminent expansion.

“We grew and grew, and reached the point where we couldn’t continue to educate as many kids as we wanted to without more space,” Albom said. “And when Matthew and Kelly were on their way to Los Angeles, instead of throwing themselves a big party … they decided to leave a legacy behind.”

The Staffords donated $1 million to the project, which will expand the Play Center by about 20,000 square feet. Upon its scheduled completion in 2023, the addition will allow the center to accommodate a greater number of students, as well as offer new programs — including career training for teens and adults.

“We’re so proud of what (the Play Center) has become, what it’s going to be in the future, all the people it’s going to affect,” Matthew Stafford said as he addressed the crowd. “It’s an unbelievable place to be a part of.”

More: Mitch Albom’s SAY Detroit Radiothon awards $1.6 million to dozens of metro Detroit charities

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit City Council member Scott Benson also attended, sharing the many positive ways the center has impacted its surrounding community.

“This entire area has come back,’ Duggan said. “A few people can make a difference.”

For more information about the SAY Detroit Play Center, go to

Lauren Wethington is a breaking news reporter. You can email her at or find her on Twitter at @laurenelizw1.

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