DETROIT (WWJ) – Nearly 35,000 kids flocked to Belle Isle Wednesday for the 30th Annual Metro Detroit Youth Day.

Youth Day has become a go-to summer event among Detroiters over the years, giving local kids the opportunity to play games with their peers and enjoy childhood.

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“It’s become a tradition in Detroit,” said co-founder Ed Deeb. “We get school systems calling us early in the year asking if we’re still having Youth Day.”

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee, who took part in the opening ceremony, said Youth Day brings back a real childhood to kids who had to grow up fast due to their circumstances.

“A lot of times in my position I see the worst of human behavior, and in some instances that results in harm to a child or a child seeing some tragic things,” he said. “I think this is the hope of today, to see all these happy young people really being able to enjoy their childhood.”

The event also opened doors for young adults in Metro Detroit. About 80 incoming college freshmen were provided with scholarships, including Councilman Ken Cockrel’s daughter, Kennedy Cockrel. The recent graduate of Cass Tech plans to study business administration at Western Michigan University in the fall.

“Western has a wonderful business program, and I just love business,” she said.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who interacted with the kids throughout the event, said it’s important for younger generations to have positive role models like Kennedy Cockrel to look up to.

“There’s so many people out here today that don’t bring the positive impact that we’d like to see in our kids,” he said. “All of us from mere beginnings have a chance. I came from the same background that a lot of these kids came from, and I never thought I’d be the mayor.”

Youth Day also included several workshops focused on conquering hard-hitting issues kids face in school, bullying, school crime and obesity.

Deeb said as long as kids continue looking forward to Youth Day, he will be there to make it happen.

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