Head of Detroit PAL honored with Shining Light award for changing children's lives

- Thursday morning, The Shining Light Awards honored people who are making a difference in our community.

The awards were created by the Detroit Free Press and MAC - The Metropolitan Affairs Coalition and highlight the importance of regional cooperation.  They are named in honor of Neal Shine - former publisher and editor of the Detroit Free Press, who passed away in 2007. 

During his long career with the paper, he was known for his commitment to our community. Today three people with that same commitment were honored for their great work that uplifts metro Detroit.  One of the honorees this year is Tim Richey, the CEO of Detroit PAL.

When you think of Detroit PAL - the Police Athletic League - you might think of sports programs - like football or cheer, but Detroit PAL is really about - building character in kids.

"Our goal is to really get them on a path to be successful in their lives," said Tim Richey. "So if sports becomes a really unique hook to engage young people in a quality after school opportunity but there's so many lessons you can learn through your participation in sports."

Detroit PAL serves more than 12,000 children each year through athletic, academic and leadership programs all guided by Richey.

"Personally I just always had a passion for the city of Detroit, young people and for sports," he said.

His passion has led to the biggest project in the nonprofit's history - transforming the historic Tiger Stadium site at Michigan and Trumbull to a new home for Detroit PAL.

"I think it is a really strong indication for kids throughout the city that the community cares about them they're important they deserve to have a place like this," Richey said. "That this is their home and this is platform for them to grow and succeed as they grow up."

Tim Richey has been helping kids succeed for most of his adult life. Long before PAL, in his 20s, as a college grad and soccer player, he introduced the sport to the kids of Detroit - co-founding the first youth soccer league in the city.

"I think the funny part is a lot of the folks I knew who played soccer thought the kids in Detroit wouldn't be interested," he said. "When you show up with a quality opportunity, when you're consistent, when you believe in them, when you provide opportunities, they love playing soccer."

It started with a handful of kids - today 4,000 play in PAL's soccer program.  It's just one example of Richey's commitment to Detroit's young people. His service to the community is why he was honored at the shining light event - with the Eleanor Jositis Unsung Hero award.

"The unsung I love. because Tim doesn't seek out any publicity or anything for his own personal brand that's not who he is," said Fred Hunter, Detroit PAL's director of program administration.

Fred Hunter has worked with Richey for more than 15 years and says the one word he would use to describe him is - committed.

"He believes, he believes in Detroit," Hunter said. "He believes in Detroit's kids. He will do anything and everything he can as an individual and as the head of Detroit PAL to make sure that he best for Detroit and the best for Detroit kids happens.

But talk to Richey about his work and he is quick to credit his board, his staff, and most of all, the volunteers.

"They're really the ones that make the magic happen," Richey said. "They're the ones that develop the character in kids, they're the ones that develop the relationships and they volunteer their time to do that."

More than 250,000 volunteer hours every year from caring adults, parents, and police officers.

And as the nonprofit heads into the future, Richey and his team will continue to make sure Detroit kids have the skills they need to succeed - on and off the playing field.

"We think the best is yet to come for Detroit PAL," Richey said.

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