We have been able to help more than 100 kids in the community with drug addiction
DEARBORN HEIGHTS — On Friday, April 13, HYPE Athletics celebrated its 17th anniversary with a dinner at its Dearborn Heights location that drew 750 attendees, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed.
What started as a basketball tournament in 2001 — organized by a 20-year-old — has evolved into a non-profit community based organization with two recreation centers in southeast Michigan.
“It started with a basketball tournament that had a mission to provide a drug free, violence free, diverse athletic environment,” Ali Sayed, founder and CEO of HYPE Athletics, told the AANEWS. “We’ve evolved into identifying and assessing the different needs within the community and then developing the services based around those needs.”
Sayed said the facilities offer not only athletics and fitness training but also tutoring, mentoring, counseling, drug prevention and intervention, career development, health education, special needs services and vocational training, among other services.
Sayed, 37, a lifetime Dearborn resident, first opened the doors of his original recreation center in May of 2012. Before that, HYPE Athletics worked with local schools and recreation centers already in place to provide programs in 12 cites across Southeast Michigan.
Sayed said that when he was picking a site for the original location he wanted to be close to home. He said Dearborn Heights welcomed HYPE into the community and allowed construction on land previously occupied by a county park.
The 104,000 square foot facility at 23302 W. Warren Ave. in Dearborn Heights contains basketball courts, classrooms, a library and more.
Sayed said that in 2015 the city of Wayne voted to close its recreational center. Sayed offered his advice on how to keep the doors open and keep the services going for the community.
“Let me consult and see if we can revamp some program services for free,” he’d said. “Let’s just see if you guys can save yourselves because a lot of kids were going to lose from that.”
The city of Wayne decided to enter into a lease agreement with Sayed and in August of 2015, HYPE took over the facility at 4635 Howe Road.
“We turned it around its beautiful now,” Sayed said. “It’s busy now and I’m employing a lot of people.”
Sayed said you can measure success in a number of ways. Whether it is in the amount of people served, programs offered or the number of facilities owned. Measuring that success can be difficult.
He said 30 recreation centers have closed in Detroit alone since he began his work in 2001.
“Not every kid likes to play basketball,” he said. “We had to offer something that someone wanted. The idea and the goal was to develop an environment that was somewhat controlled, where we knew that the kids were going to positively develop— whether it be in art, a specific trait, socially, emotionally, physically, mentally or cognitively.”
The work Sayed does for the community does not get paid for with tax dollars.
“Not one dollar comes from taxes or millages,” he said. “We have our program and service base, we have our donation base and we have some grants that help provide specific services.”
Sayed said one of the programs the grant funding was able to create was vocational training for individuals with special needs, a term Sayed said the state defines broadly.
“It could be a recovering addict who we’ve been helping a lot of,” Sayed said. “It could mean cognitively impaired, physically impaired, it could be different functional limitations.”
Sayed said he’s been able to help more than 100 kids in the community with drug addiction.
“That took my whole morning from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. just today,” he said, “with one person who relapsed, was clean almost a month and relapsed.”
Sayed stressed the importance of helping drug addicts in the community.
“These young guys, they start drugs sometimes when they’re 17-years-old,” he said. “I mean they drop out of school, they don’t go to college, they’re just way behind. They got to get their GED, they need some confidence, they need some education, they need some training; I mean it’s a very full-on initiative. I feel like it’s going to be my newest of callings.”
Sayed said HYPE works to cater to all needs in the community.
“We’ve really diversified who we are and what we do,” he said. “HYPE is a community that focuses on strengthening the infrastructure of our youth and the families through the positive development of the programs we have.”
He also said HYPE continues to strive to achieve its original goal of helping people and that the only change has been the methodology behind the help.
“We have to consistently be agile, Sayed said. “We have to be able to adapt because climates, environments and communities change.”
He added that working with local governments and religious and community organizations is important for HYPE’s success.
“It’s a partner or perish society,” Sayed said. “It’s easier to work together than it is to work by yourself.”