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The Skillman Foundation & The Parade Company Announce the Winner of the 29th Annual Skillman Foundation Float Design Contest

“The Genius of Children” Float Designed by Bates Academy 8th Grader to Debut in America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Gardner-White

The Skillman Foundation and The Parade Company today announced 8th grader John Baker IV, student at Bates Academy in Detroit, as the grand prize winner of the 29th Annual Skillman Foundation Float Design Contest for America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Gardner-White.

Baker’s design, titled “The Genius of Children,” was transformed into a beautiful larger-than-life float by the artists at The Parade Company. The float features Albert Einstein, a piano player, a spelling bee champion, a chess player and Baker himself. In his design, Baker drew himself as a basketball player sitting on a stack of books, emphasizing that children can excel at more than one thing. Baker is an accomplished athlete, student and artist.

This year’s theme, “The Genius of Children,” celebrates the many talents possessed by young people and is a continuation of The Skillman Foundation’s “Detroit Genius” campaign that kicked off this year to celebrate the foundation’s 6th anniversary. The Skillman Foundation’s 60 Examples of Detroit Genius can be seen at

“Year after year on Thanksgiving morning, children young and old across our state and country tune in to America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s a tradition The Skillman Foundation is proud to be part of,” said Tonya Allen, President & CEO of The Skillman Foundation. “This year’s float design is an inspiring display of the gifts children bring to the world, as is its designer, John Baker IV.”     

“The Skillman Foundation is an incredible partner, and the float design contest is a special moment we look forward to each year as we celebrate the talent and creativity of Detroit students,” said Tony Michaels, President & CEO of The Parade Company. “We look forward to debuting ‘The Genius of Children’ in America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Gardner-White on WDIV Thanksgiving morning.”

For 29 years, the partnership between The Parade Company and The Skillman Foundation has inspired young artists by giving them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their vision come to life as a parade float. The popular contest provides Detroit students ranging in grades four through eight the chance to design a float that will be included in this year’s America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Gardner-White.

Five honorable mention winners were also selected, and their beautiful artwork will be displayed around the border of the float.  The students include:

Alayna Gross, Thurgood Marshall Elementary / Middle School, 6th grade, “Colors Like to Party”

Michelle Hunter, Bates Academy, 6th grade, “The Future is Yours to Find”

DeMarcus Catlin, Fisher Magnet Upper, 6th grade, “The Lab”

Simira Jimenez, Maybury Elementary, 5th grade, “Children Are All Kinds of Genius”

Jayla Freeman, Pasteur Elementary, 5th grade, “The Genius of Children”    

America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Gardner-White is recognized as the Best Holiday Parade by USA Today, two years running, 2018 and 2019. This is Gardner-White’s inaugural year as presenting sponsor.

America’s Thanksgiving Parade® presented by Gardner-White will be a televised-only broadcast on WDIV Local 4. The near century-long tradition will capture the imagination of millions watching from their home with new floats, new performance and annual parade favorites including floats, balloons and marching bands. WDIV Local 4’s broadcast begins at 9 a.m.ET, with the parade airing 10 a.m. to noon.

The Skillman Foundation

A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that serves as a fierce champion of Detroit children. The Foundation works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities, and college and career pathways.

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