The founder and owner of the Buffalo Bills has seen his name associated with a stadium, but on Thursday Ralph Wilson had a Detroit area Boys & Girls Club athletic field dedicated in his honor.
The dedication unveiled a new field for kids at the NFL-YET (Youth Education Town) Boys & Girls Club in Detroit.
"We are grateful for Mr. Wilson's support and that of our partners to provide kids with a healthy outlet for sports, fitness and competition," said Boys & Girls Club Southeastern Michigan President Len Krichko.
The dedication coincides with the national meeting of NFL/YET -Boys & Girls Clubs leadership. The NFL/YET Boys & Girls Club at the Dick and Sandy Dauch Campus is the newest and largest of 15 such centers nationwide, built with partial funding from the NFL in Super Bowl host cities.
More than $300,000 was raised for the field in a collaborative effort that matched Wilson's gift to a challenge grant from the NFL Grassroots program, a partnership between the NFL Youth Football Fund and LISC, the nation's leading community development support corporation. Other supporters were the Detroit Lions Charities, United Way and the NFL Hometown Huddle program as well as Detroit Lions players.
"I've always admired the work done by Boys & Girls Clubs," said Wilson. "They deliver profound benefits for young people and their communities by providing a positive place for them, where they can have fun, achieve their goals and become outstanding citizens of tomorrow."
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Athletic field is a natural grass field, bordered by a quarter mile-walking trail with 10 fitness stations. Kids use the field for flag football, soccer and T-ball. The Clubs feature five core programs: character and leadership development; education and career development; the arts; sports, fitness, and recreation; and health and life skills.
Supporting youth sports is nothing new for Wilson. In November 2004, the Buffalo Bills became the first NFL franchise to open a facility dedicated for youth football on the same grounds as the team headquarters pioneering an initiative first presented by then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The NFL has donated close to $20 million toward YET Centers since the program began in 1993 as a legacy of Super Bowl XXVII. YET Centers are state-of-the-art facilities designed to help youngsters succeed by offering tutoring, mentoring, career training, computer education and recreational activities.