Charity Champions: Ken Daniels on Raising Awareness of Substance Use Disorders

The Detroit Red Wings play-by-play announcer and co-founder of the Jamie Daniels Foundation was nominated by HopeNetwork for the Neal Shine Award for Media Commitment
Ken Daniels
Ken Daniels

Each year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ greater Detroit chapter honors southeastern Michigan’s most dedicated volunteers, philanthropists, and fundraising professionals with its annual awards. Hour Detroit is pleased to partner with AFP to introduce 2021’s slate of charity champions ahead of National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 21.

It was almost a year after losing his 23-year-old son, Jamie, in 2016 to a fentanyl-laced synthetic opioid that Red Wings play-by-play announcer Ken Daniels knew it was time to speak up. 

“It was Jamie’s voice that said, ‘It’s OK, Dad,’” Daniels says. So, he shared his family’s story with Craig Custance of The Athletic magazine, and people — lots of people — paid attention. The outpouring of support led Daniels and Jamie’s mother, Lisa Daniels-Goldman, to create the Jamie Daniels Foundation to continue to raise awareness about substance use disorders. 

“So many people don’t talk about it,” he says. That’s why he’s passionate about helping families move past the unnecessary shame and stigma surrounding addiction. His work is especially critical in the wake of 2020, which saw more than 90,000 overdose deaths — a record high and a nearly 30 percent surge from 2019.

The foundation has raised nearly $1.2 million since its inception in 2018 to fund such efforts as a scholarship at Michigan State University (Jamie’s alma mater) for students recovering from substance use disorders, as well as spending thousands of dollars on teletherapy assistance and developing and supporting programs at colleges and high schools. (Its annual celebrity roast and silent auction on Nov. 22 will feature former Red Wings player and hockey legend Brett Hull.) 

The foundation — which is part of the Children’s Foundation, a Michigan nonprofit — has also partnered with nonprofits such as Delta Dental of Michigan to advocate against dangerous and unnecessary prescriptions that can lead to unhealthy opioid use.

The foundation is also working to build an 80-unit facility in Oakland County. Long-term, safe recovery housing in Michigan is important to Daniels’ efforts, as his son’s overdose occurred in Florida, where Jamie was recovering under the care of “unscrupulous people,” as Daniels describes them. “We would have loved to have had a safe place here while Jamie was recovering,” he says. 

The foundation also concentrates on providing families with resources — such as questions to ask when pursuing treatment programs — guidance, and support through “Recovery is possible, and that’s what people need to know,” Daniels says.

His dream is to bring education about substance use disorders to all high schools. “There should be a school assembly with every kid, with at least one parent or guardian, to talk about this before they can get into school,” he says. “That’s how rampant it is.”

Ultimately, it’s about saving lives, and Daniels says he’s already heard from a number of families that the foundation has done just that. “I believe Jamie is proud of what we are doing,” Daniels says.

This story is part of our Give Detroit package and is featured in the November 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.