Caskey Family Foundation Aims to Level the Playing Field for All Kids
The coronavirus pandemic and social unrest have rocked the Earth in 2020.
Everyone's day-to-day life and way of being have seemingly been altered in some fashion -- whether in an economic, physical or social sense or worst-case scenario, in all three facets.
The world subsequently needs positive difference makers now more than ever before.
Enter Detroit Lions running backs coach Kyle Caskey and his wife Kayla, the co-founders of the Caskey Family Foundation. According to the foundation's website, the nonprofit aims "to create positive change, bring hope and empower individuals in the local community."
Kyle, who got his NFL coaching start with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010, and Kayla, the executive director of the foundation, were heavily influenced by ex-Bengals head man Marvin Lewis' involvement in the community.
Lewis founded the Marvin Lewis Community Fund in 2003 to empower youth education throughout Greater Cincinnati, and it opened up the Caskey duo's eyes to the great effect they could also have on the area.
It led to Kyle and Kayla spearheading various events for CancerFree KIDS, a nonprofit based in Ohio aimed at eradicating cancer as a life-threatening disease in children by funding promising research that might otherwise go unfunded.
Fast-forward to today, and once again, the Caskey family has it eyes on positively impacting the lives of children -- one of the groups of individuals most direly affected by the pandemic.
The severity of the virus led to a multiple months stay-at-home order across the country that effectively replaced inside-the-classroom education with virtual learning.
Gone were in-person interactions with classmates and teachers, and in were Zoom video calls and lectures.
Unfortunately, not every family in America today, though, has access to WiFi and to modern-day technological devices, such as laptops, that make learning from home possible.
This is especially true for those residing in underserved and impoverished neighborhoods.
The city of Detroit is no different, with a multitude of families that suffer from a lack of resources at home.
With no certainty that school will resume inside the classroom in the fall, assistance is actively needed to get these families the equipment they need to allow for their children to effectively learn from home.
Kyle and Kayla saw the glaring void, and decided to create the aforementioned Caskey Family Foundation, which was launched during the pandemic.
"When the pandemic hit, we thought how could we give back," Kayla said. "We thought there's so much going on right now. We're just blessed that we're able to give back."
So, they decided to do a virtual fundraiser for Gleaners, a food bank for the less fortunate with multiple locations throughout Southeast Michigan. While it was a satisfactory experience, they still knew they wanted to make an even bigger impact in the city of Detroit.
After the senseless murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers in May, Kyle proceeded to have conversations with numerous Lions players.
"The talks we were having over Zoom with our team were some of the most moving things I've ever been a part of," Kyle commented. "It opened my eyes to ... we all saw things that were happening. But, when you hear people that you respect, honestly, I can say it ... I love some of these guys that are on this team. You know, we've been through a lot together. So, to hear the struggles of not only them but their families and people back home -- wherever they're from -- just to hear their stories, it really moved me to say what can I do to help."
So, he started asking around about what can a white man do to help bridge the racial divide and mitigate the racial inequalities that exist in our world today.
"A lot of guys just told me to listen and support. And so, I listened, and we spent some time, a good week or so, just pondering and digesting it all. I was a whole different person, too, for that period of time," Kyle said.
His agent Kelli Masters, the founder and president of KMM Sports, played an integral role in the creation of the foundation. She brought up the idea of raising money for education to him.
"As just one person here, I'm not going to stop police brutality. I'm not going to change, you know, a thousand and millions of people's minds on different issues," Kyle said. "But, at this point right now, I thought we maybe could find something to stop the systemic issues existent within the inner-city schools, and help them get to a different level, leveling the playing field for these kids."
After his conversation with Masters, he took the info to Kayla, and she signed off on it right away.
"We didn't want to just do a GoFundMe. We didn't want to just say, 'Hey, we're raising money for this. Here's a GoFundMe,'" Kyle said. "Because a lot of times with a GoFundMe, you don't know where that money's going. So, we wanted to do something where if anybody were ever to look at this, they could see where their money's going."
Specifically, the money currently being raised by the Caskey Family Foundation benefits the nonprofit's "Surfaces for Success" initiative.
The virtual campaign aims to raise the funds neccessary to supply the Detroit Lions Academy -- a Detroit Public Schools Community District alternative middle school located on E. Canfield St. in Detroit -- with at least 100 Microsoft Surfaces for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
The campaign included an online auction that featured signed items from multiple Lions players, including a signed Matthew Stafford jersey.
As of Aug. 8, enough money has been raised to cover the cost for 22 Surfaces.
"A lot of these kids when the pandemic started and virtual learning began, a lot of them didn't have the technology to call in on a Zoom call," Kyle explained. "So, they're going and picking up paper packets, and some have even trouble doing that with transportation issues. And they were calling in and trying to learn math over the phone. And I don't know how you do that."
Helping the youth in Detroit achieve a quality education is something especially important to him because of his family's background in education.
His dad served as a high school principal, and his mom was an English teacher.
They helped instill the belief in Kyle that every child -- regardless of race and socioeconomic status -- should get the same shot to be what they want to be in life.
Through further dialogue with members of the Lions' roster, it's something he found out that isn't always the case for kids from the inner city.
"After talking to our players and our coaches and understanding that the racial divide starts at an early age, it doesn't have to be that way," he said. "And I think with the pandemic hitting, it really showed even more because some schools are funded differently than others. And you know, we're just trying to do some small part to help, you know, curb that somewhere. And it may just be a small thing we're doing. But, I'm hoping that somewhere we affect a few kids and change their lives down the road."
The foundation is already well on its way to affecting a few kids and then some.
Just last Saturday (Aug. 1), it raised over $8,000 in a karaoke event called "Karaoke for Success" that was put on in collaboration with Jeremy Reisman and SB Nation's Lions-centric site Pride of Detroit.
Kyle sang '80s hits "Careless Whisper" by George Michael and "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake, as well as another Michael-fan favorite in "Freedom! '90", as part of the fun-filled night. The initiative raised enough funds to cover the cost for 12 Surfaces.
Moving forward, the Caskey family will continue to work on creating an equal playing field for kids inside the classroom.
As Kyle said himself, it's only fair to allow every kid to have a shot at accomplishing their life goals.
And you can help ensure that the Caskey Family Foundation continues to achieve its goals by donating to the nonprofit today by clicking here.