"We needed to restore this club to a positive place," said Dickens. "Kids need to feel good from the moment that they hit the sidewalk outside the door. ... This is their home away from home.
"I think it's great because it's positive, and it just gives them that input that somebody cared enough about [them] to make this happen. More important, [the kids can say] 'I got to hold a paintbrush' or 'I got to push a broom,' and 'I got to bring my club back to something I could be proud of.'"
Kids from the club were joined by B&GCA officials -- including B&GCA of Southeastern Michigan president and CEO Leonard Krichko -- MLB team mascots and a host of Detroit companies. They were also joined by several representatives from MLB, including Tom Brasuell, VP of community affairs; Celia Bobrowsky, the Tigers' director of community relations; and Magical Builders, an initiative of the Frank Foundation of Phoenix, Ariz. All of them were happy to participate in a most memorable day for the club.
The children and mascots danced and played as a DJ spun festive tunes outside the clubhouse. Everyone at the ceremony was excited to see the whirlwind transformation of the club -- newly-painted walls, new ceiling tiles, a new air conditioning and heating system, upgraded restrooms, landscaping and field improvements -- which all took place in just one week. Everything, including supplies and labor, was donated by local companies and dozens of volunteers.
As a special treat, the club also was given a wagon full of board games, a new television, about $2,000 of baseball equipment from MLB and even a pet parakeet.
Many of the B&GCA members were present at the celebration ceremony. Courtney Brown, 15, said she has been coming to the Diehl Club since she was about 6 years old.
"The club offers so many different opportunities for me," said Brown. "It's one of the most powerful and positive places in our neighborhood, so I just love the club."
Brown is a B&GCA Youth of the Year winner, and was scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the All-Star Game.
She was thankful for all the work the companies and volunteers had done to improve her club.
"It means a lot, because this is like a one-in-a-million chance for us," Brown said. "It's just wonderful. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everybody so much."
Jon and Christy Frank head up the Magical Builders program, which works to bring community and business leaders together to improve the lives of children through refurbishment projects.
Magical Builders' first project was the Family Living Center at Phoenix Children's Hospital. The Franks worked with MLB to organize their second project during All-Star Week at the Diehl Club, and hope to make projects like this an annual All-Star event.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is the official charity of MLB. Brasuell said that the league was happy to get involved in the Detroit project.
"It's fantastic, when you came out here two weeks ago and saw what this club looked like before, it is
just like we built a new club from scratch, pretty much," said Brasuell.
"Kids like to come to a facility that's appealing to them, and this is certainly appealing. So we think they're going to attract more kids. ... These kids now, the ones that are coming and the new ones that will come, are going to benefit from this tremendous facility."