Detroit Clark Park Winter Carnival is Saturday, raising money for children's programs

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The free Clark Park Winter Carnival is Saturday from noon to four, with outdoor charity hockey games starting at 6 p.m.  

Located in southwest Detroit is known for its spectacular outdoor hockey rink. There's a lot more going on at the park, including programs that are changing lives.

Lives like Ani Gonzalez, who is hardly the first kid whose low energy level threatened to sabotage her high ambitions. Today she is weighing her options for college.

"It started with my aunt, she told me about her photography program that she was running," she said. 

Before you know it, Ani was running the photography program, working with kids who also started out lacking, er, focus.

"After that I ended up working there for the summer," she said. "After that, myself and the other youth workers we went around the park, we cleaned, we supervised the kids.

The photography program started out with disposable cameras. Thanks to the generosity of donors, kids now get to work with high quality digital cameras -- which are a lot more sophisticated then that little doohickey built into your smartphone. Two important components of the photography program are responsibility and opportunity. Kids need to take care of the equipment, and they get to take field trips where they are able to express themselves through the images they capture.

The kids in the photography program were not the only ones who found that responsibility nurtures maturity.

"I put more effort in what I do, where before I wouldn't care," she said. "I care about my work and coming here."

On Saturday, attorney Mike Rataj and I will face off in our fifth annual outdoor charity hockey game.

Players, sponsors and donors -- many of whom may be watching this very story right now, helped us raise tens of thousands of dollars to support all the great things happening year round at this magical place in the heart of southwest Detroit.

Sure, there's hockey, and now you know about photography. There's also tutoring, mentoring, nutrition classes, more sports and, well, I could go on and on

Put it all together, and you have a place that doesn't just keep kids busy, it turns them into adults -- real grown up people we can all be proud of.

"We're just like a little family here and I grew as a person. I'm a lot more confident and I can talk to almost anyone," said Ani.

So here's the part of the story where I feel like I need to come up with something really profound to inspire you to open your hearts -- and, hopefully, your wallets -- to support Clark Park.

But, frankly, Ani says it best - "It's a way for our kids and our future to grow."

To make a donation go to!/

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