Helping Hands: Matthew and Kelly Stafford Give Back to Detroit Community

by TK Sanders
Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

After more than a decade in Detroit, current LA Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford just punched his ticket to his first ever Super Bowl. His wife, Kelly, who was known for her appearances at Lions games over the years, now wears Rams gear, of course. But the couple did not leave Detroit completely behind. In fact, their parting gift to the city will be felt for years to come.

Before moving to Los Angeles, the Staffords donated $1 million to the SAY Detroit Play Center (SDPS). The academic center will use the funds for a new education space, according to a spokesperson.

“When Matthew and Kelly left here, he wanted to leave because of football. He didn’t want to leave the community,” said Mitch Albom, who founded SDPC in 2006. The org specializes in preparing children 8-18 years old for adulthood through education.

Apparently the Staffords made the SDPC one of their preferred charitable organizations over the years; so much so that the couple would show up to volunteer randomly many times, just to spend time with the kids.

“I think one of the most pleasant surprises that we had as we got to know Matthew Stafford over the years, were the times that he or Kelly would just show up at the SAY Play Center on a Tuesday on their off day. And the next thing you know, he’d be throwing a football or shooting baskets. And she’d be leading cheer team things,” Albom said. “There weren’t any cameras around, and they weren’t doing it for that reason.”

Matthew and Kelly Stafford have Supported SDPS for Years

Back in 2015, the Staffords donated $1 million to help the center survive city budget cuts. Now that the center is open and thriving, the donation will be an investment in a new building space.

The new center will be named the Kelly and Matthew Stafford and Friends Education Center. It will allow SDPC to serve more than 400 students. Albom said construction will begin soon.

“To suddenly have a community, a place where they can do their studies, a place where they can do sports, where they can do music, and a recording studio and dance, and other programs like that, robotics, STEM programs, it’s unheard of in many neighborhoods in the city,” Albom said.

Albom also said that Matthew and Kelly asked the center to include recognition of all donors, not just them. Not only will the center include the word ‘Friends’ in the title, but it will also honor every donor on a plaque inside the building.

“They just didn’t want to just stick their name on something and say, ‘Look how great we are.’ It was more like an invitation like, ‘Hey, we’ll start building this – you come along and build it with us,” Albom said.

Stafford and his Los Angeles Rams face the Cincinnati Bengals on Feb. 13 live from Southern California.