Dearborn-based HYPE Athletics, which engages local youth in recreational and educational programs, is taking its program to new heights. With a recreation center in the works, a recent partnership with the Detroit Lions, and the addition of the University of Michigan’s original fab five member Jimmy King, it's safe to say the nonprofit organization is living up to the, well, hype.
Local Athletes Help out at HYPE
King joined the HYPE team last summer after volunteering at multiple HYPE camps throughout the year.
“The thing that I like about HYPE is not only the athletic programs,” King said. “They have other services that cater to the needs of all children, whether it’s tutoring, career leadership, substance abuse, life skills, or anger management. It’s important that we address those issues other than just through athletics.”
HYPE CEO and founder Ali Sayed said King’s addition to HYPE is going to help expand and spread awareness about what HYPE is all about.
“Bringing Jimmy on is going to allow us to expand and to target high school students–especially student athletes who follow sports and who know of the history of sports and who understand what it takes to get to where he got," Sayed explained. "So, it’s perfect for (him) to serve as a coach, as a mentor, and ... leadership development guide for these young kids.”
King played on what is considered one of the best recruited teams in the University of Michigan’s basketball history beginning in 1991. He went on to play two seasons in the NBA, and has since worked with children as an instructor of basketball camps for students ranging from six to 17 years old, and as a coach for local area kids at St. Mary’s High School in Orchard Lake.
“I know that in the city of Detroit, the services that we talked about are lacking,” King said. “But, I have connections and I have a lot of interest in the city of Detroit so I want to bring those programs into the city so that the kids of Detroit can benefit from them.”
King isn’t the only professional athlete that’s been taking part in HYPE–players from the Detroit Lions have been active as well. For Thanksgiving, each player gave away turkeys that amount to their jersey number, along with canned foods, stuffing and mashed potatoes.
The History of HYPE
HYPE (Helping Youth Progress and Excel) was founded in 2001 on the basis of athletics and social services. The organization annually enrolls about 6,500 kids from ages four to 17. Kids play in sports such as basketball, football, baseball, soccer, volleyball and tennis. They also partake in after-school services such as tutoring, mentoring, counselling, substance abuse prevention, leadership training and more.
Sayed said he’s had aspirations of entrepreneurship as early as seven years old. He became owner of a restaurant at only 18 years old and, since then, wanted to find ways give back.
Sayed graduated from Dearborn High in 1999 and built relationships with people from all different cultures. Himself a Lebanese Arab American, Sayed wanted to find ways to integrate the different cultures and thought up a basketball tournament at Hemlock Park.
“How can we break that cultural barrier is what was trickling through my mind?” Sayed said. “The tournament was very receptive, not only from Dearborn but ... we had kids from Ypsilanti, Royal Oak and it was all about diversity and the promotion of unity and acceptance.
“Immediately after that tournament we assessed it and evaluated the program and we saw that great mission: drug free, violence Free, diverse–but it should be focused on the kids.”
Big Plans for the Future
Currently, HYPE–which operates mainly at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center and local schools–is in the midst of constructing a building called the Wayne County Hype Recreation Center, located at 23302 W. Warren Ave in Dearborn Heights. According to Sayed, the new site will be 110,000 square feet of space, including five multi-purpose courts. The new center will have separate gyms for men and women along with locker rooms and showers.
But it doesn’t stop there.
The new recreation center will also have classrooms, a computer lab, a library, an indoor track and a restaurant. The center will open in early 2012.
However, big projects take lots of fundraising.
Hype recently launched a Text-2-give campaign on Nov. 1 that aims to help supply the new recreation center’s classrooms and computer labs. The goal is to raise $50,000 for needed computers, books, desks, furniture and other classroom basics. To help the organization achieve its goal, texting HYPE to 85944 will make a one-time donation to the Wayne County HYPE recreation Center. A $10 fee will be charged to your future cell phone bill if you choose to support.
Also, HYPE will be hosting a telethon on Sunday, Dec. 4, from 9 a.m.-midnight to raise funds. Those interested in volunteering at the event, held at Bylbos Banquet Hall, can do so by visiting www.hypeathletics.org, or by calling 1-866-988-HYPE (4973).
Sayed said the county is happy to partner with HYPE for the new center.
“We worked very closely with Wayne County and we wanted to identify them as a partner and they had that site, Warrendale Park as County Park,” Sayed said. “They were very eager to see this building be built on a site that they can take ownership of and be a part of."
Sayed said the new center is only the beginning of HYPE’s future plans.
“Hype is going to expand, guaranteed,” said Sayed. “We’re just taking one step at a time. Within five years, you’re going to see two or three more centers. And within 10 years, you’re going to see us target a demographic that’s probably as large as the state of Michigan.”
“Our goal is to partner and collaborate with as many organizations that share our mission. We want to give our successful experiences and share those with other individuals so that they can, in turn, do well.”