I should have known something was up. My wife Abs insisted on coming to the Detroit Police Athletic League communications class that I help lecture every Saturday morning.
This is my small way of giving back to the community as I hope to see some of these kids fill voids in the media or whatever else they decide to do.
Then my sister in law Big Pretty wanted to come.
It did not dawn on me that they wanted to be present for the first surprise birthday party of my life. I didn’t realize anything was brewing until one of the students appeared with a white sheet cake with red, blue, orange and yellow icing made to look like balloons.
The students sang happy birthday to me the traditional way and then broke into the Stevie Wonder version. Then people began saying nice things about me and the celebration was on.
It meant a lot for this old man who turns 61 this week. I was touched.
My mission and goal is to help produce future sports writers and broadcasters. I’ve been with the program about two years and some of my little chickens are beginning to hatch and get a glimpse of the outside world. Some are graduating high school this year and have been accepted in college.
I even wrote a letter of recommendation for one of the journalism students for a scholarship at Central Michigan University. I called him our Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental.
My goal is to teach them story telling, an art that is being lost by young writers. Too many writers craft stories like book reports that lack the human touch. They miss the blood, sweat and tears of life and human drama.
I want my kids to remember that sports are a people business no matter how big or small the names.
The art of communication is important even if the kids decide journalism is not for them. Police need to communicate better. Doctors need to communicate better. So do engineers, accountants and pilots.
I want my kids to have fun. The best part about Saturday was not the birthday cake. It was the spirited discussions we had that morning about hair, Kobe Bryant, gang fights, the NBA, the NFL and about each other.
It was loud but that’s OK. That is the way some news rooms work. People disagree and then wrap arms around each other as they leave morning meetings.
I often find that students write around a subject. They don’t attack an issue head on. When they do that I tell them to get Gangsta with it. In other words be strong and be direct.
Most of the students don’t know about my career in journalism and radio. Their parents filled them later. One young man, who is a sophomore in high school, did. He said he listened to me in the car when I co-hosted the Valenti and Foster Show on 97.1 FM. He said I became a hero and he wanted to meet me.
I was once again touched by Omari’s words. He even read some of my old stories in The Detroit News.
PAL Chief Executive Officer Robert Jamerson said a few words as did Youth Development Officer Marcus Norwood.
I am not the hero of this program. Those honors go to WWJ 950 AM news anchor Stephanie Davis who keeps things orderly. And a special shout out goes to Delvis Nixon, who heads our program..
People from Western Michigan University might remember him as Mixin’ Nixon during his days in Kalamazoo.
Thank you to former Oakland University soccer player Jenna Taylor who recruited me for this volunteer position
Saturday mornings are the best times of the week for me. After suffering a stroke three years ago and retiring, I felt useless and forgotten. This program is part of my rehab to better health. One of my doctors said I must continue to use my mind and I must do things that I like.
Well, this program is it.
I thought PAL was just about getting kids off the streets to play football, basketball and baseball. It is more than that. It is also about education and career development.
Most of our kids are from Detroit. But some are from Harper Woods, West Bloomfield, Walled Lake and Bellville. You can sign your children up at DetroitPAL.org. PAL also welcomes volunteer coaches and teachers.
Come join the fun.
Find Terry Foster Podcast here: