Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores continues providing game-night surprises for Flint children through ‘Be Impactful’ program

At the age of 17, Devan Decker enrolled in Traverse Place for Homeless Teens when he first experienced housing displacement.  

“I was kicked out of my parent’s house and didn’t have anywhere to go,” Decker said.  

More than five years later, Decker stood proudly on the Little Caesars Arena court on a Sunday afternoon in early February with other members of the Genesee County Youth Corporation as the organization received a $5,000 donation from Pistons’ owner Tom Gores.  

“(The Detroit Pistons organization) said we would be doing something during the game, but I had no idea what it would be,” Decker said afterward. “I was surprised.”  

Genesee County Youth Corporation is a social service organization that provides shelter services for unaccompanied minors who run away or are experiencing homelessness. The organization also provides crisis intervention, counseling, transitional housing and life skills in varying programs. 

“We help (adolescents and young adults) get in school, help them find jobs and get them connected with other resources,” housing program case manager Gloria Parker said during the game against the Orlando Magic.  

The Genesee County Youth Corporation is just one of five Flint area organizations who sent groups of youths to Detroit Pistons games this season courtesy of Pistons owner Tom Gores. Called the “Be Impactful” initiative, the program was introduced for the start of the 2021-22 season. Children are bused to games where they are treated to a full game-night experience. The organizations also receive $5,000 grants. The initiative serves as a way for Gores to give back to the community where he grew up after immigrating from Israel as a small child.   

“Tom is very vocal in terms of the impact he wants to make in the community,” former Pistons vice president of community relations and social responsibility Erika Swilley said. “When he purchased the Pistons in 2011 and moved the team back to Detroit (in 2017), he wanted it to be a community asset and he has a lot of authentic, amazing ideas on different ways to give back.” 

The Pistons provided a top-notch experience for the group of kids and teens on Feb. 4. After arriving at LCA, more than 20 attendees were escorted to a private suite to watch the game.  

Each attendee was gifted black and blue Pistons-themed “Be Impactful” T-shirts to wear throughout the game. Candy jars were placed throughout the suite and pizza, pop and other fan favorites filled the kitchen area.   

Decker, Parker and her team were brought down to the court during the third period for the donation announcement. The children in the suites cheered and jumped with excitement as their friends and mentors were shown on the jumbotron.  

“I was not expecting the check, but it’s really amazing,” Parker said. 

Parker said she will make sure that everyone in the program benefits from the donation.  

"I think it’s cool that (Gores) engaged in the community and cares about the people in Flint,” Decker said.  

Parker said the experience will be unforgettable for the group.  

“They’ll take this with them for the rest of their lives,” Parker said. “They got to see things today outside of what they were already exposed to. I always tell them, ‘When someone blesses you, go and bless someone else.’” 

The other four recipients of the program were GEARup2LEAD, Tapology, Flint Strive and Whaley’s Children Center. The Pistons partnered with the United Way of Genesee County to organize the events.