Why the Detroit Pistons’ are using the Season of Giving to bring awareness to chronic absenteeism in schools

Detroit Gompers Elementary-Middle School students lined up to witness the Detroit Pistons spread a little holiday cheer Wednesday.

Gompers was one of five Detroit schools to receive winter coats, hats, gloves, basketballs and milk from the Pistons organization and the Motor City Cruise as part of a full day of service to support the Detroit community. Amelia Earhart Elementary-Middle School, Trix Academy, Detroit Leadership Academy Elementary School and Detroit Leadership Academy High School were the other schools to receive visits.

Gompers students were visibly excited to see Pistons standouts Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. Cunningham was moved by the response.

“It’s a blessing for me to have kids look up to me the way they do,” Cunningham said. “It’s still crazy for me sometimes. It’s important to give back and spend some time with them.”

In partnership with Every School Day Counts, an organization that seeks to tackle underlying issues that cause chronic absenteeism and prevent students from attending school, more than 2,500 youths received winter gear as a part of the Pistons’ Season of Giving program presented by Kroger.

“The kids will remember this the rest of their lives and the hope is that it will inspire them to continue to be here,” Every School Day Counts Detroit co-founder Larry Simmons said. “The reason we are doing this is because almost six out of 10 of them miss two days a month and missing two days a month makes you chronically absent.”

ESDCD has set a goal to bring Detroit’s rate of chronic absenteeism down substantially by 2027. One such issue ESDCD seeks to address is a lack of winter clothing during the cold months.

“Attendance is super important,” Cunningham said. “Coming to school every day and trying to improve yourself is the biggest thing.”

In addition to the winter gear giveaway, Cunningham, Bey and Kroger made additional contributions to students and staff at the five schools:

Kroger recognized teachers at all five schools with Kroger gift cards.

Cunningham donated $70,000 with $10,000 each split across the five Detroit schools as well as two schools in his hometown of Arlington, Texas to establish “Cade’s Care Closets.” The closets will provide toiletries, hygiene products and non-perishable snacks for students.

Bey donated more than $5,000 in gift cards that will be divided between staff members at each of the five Detroit schools.

Cheers erupted from faculty members when Cunningham presented the $10,000 check.

The basketballs were donated by AAA of Michigan and the milk was donated by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

"It’s great for our players to be able to go back, give back, and be a part of the community,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “They can inspire and be an example for these students.”