Red Wings fan from birth: first baby born at Trinity Health Hospital in 2024 helps launch new “Wings Welcome” program, presented by Michigan Education Savings Program

Alex Leroux @DetroitRedWings /

With a new year comes many new things, but for Donte Byrd and Areona Evans, the start of 2024 brought a new baby and participation in a unique new program launched by the Detroit Red Wings, Trinity Health Michigan and the Michigan Education Savings Program (MESP).

Byrd and Evans welcomed a five-pound, 10-ounce baby girl just 34 seconds into 2024, on New Year’s Day at Trinity Health Oakland hospital. Born more than four weeks early, baby Arielle was the first baby born at the birth center in the new year.

“It was such an amazing feeling, just watching the whole process and being in the room,” said Byrd, a first-time father. “The doctors were awesome and so patient. They took us through every step that was needed, and it was awesome. It’s a day we’ll never forget.”

After welcoming Arielle to the world, Byrd and Evans learned they were able to get her college fund started earlier than they expected. Arielle was gifted $529 toward a 529 Savings Plan on behalf of MESP through the new “Wings Welcome” program. As the first baby born at Trinity Health Oakland in 2024, Arielle was chosen as MESP’s first recipient.

MESP is one of three Michigan Section 529 plans that offer Michigan taxpayers triple tax benefits! A state income tax deduction on contributions, tax-deferred growth on earnings, and withdrawals to pay for qualified higher education expenses are tax-free. MESP can be used at any eligible college, university, or trade school for a variety of qualified expenses, including tuition, mandatory equipment, fees, certain room, and board costs, supplies and books. To learn more about the Michigan Education Savings Program, its investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses carefully read the Program Description at Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss. TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, Member FINRA, distributor and underwriter for the Michigan Educations Savings Program. Program Administrator, Michigan Department of Treasury.

Byrd said learning his family was gifted $529 for his new daughter’s college savings fund was a welcomed surprise.

“Throughout the pregnancy process, my girlfriend and I talked about our financial future and Arielle’s financial future,” Byrd said. “We looked into some savings programs and tried to decide how we were going to start savings funds for her to attend college, but we didn’t get anything solidified. This $529 from MESP and the Red Wings gave us a good head start on preparing for her future and we’re forever grateful for that generosity.”

Throughout 2024, parents departing participating birth centers will receive a swaddle blanket on behalf of the Red Wings, MESP and Trinity Health Michigan. For a chance to receive MESP’s $529 contribution toward a new college savings fund, parents are encouraged to take a photo of their newborn swaddled in the blanket, and to tag @DetroitRedWings on X or Instagram with the hashtags #wingswelcome and #mesp.

The swaddle blankets, including an MESP informational care package, are currently being distributed to new parents at Trinity Health Oakland. Plans are in the works to expand the “Wings Welcome” program to all five Trinity Health Michigan birth centers, including in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Livonia and Muskegon.

“Supporting the health and wellbeing of Michigan families is a commitment our hospitals, physicians and providers have long prioritized, including the miracle of bringing new life into the world,” said Shannon Striebich, president and CEO of the Trinity Health Michigan Market. “We are humbled to be part of each family’s story, welcoming them into our birthing centers with exceptional care and a supportive environment as they celebrate their baby and begin planning for the future.”

“We are tremendously excited about this new program in partnership with Trinity Health Michigan and MESP, and for the next generation of Red Wings fans to wear the Winged Wheel shortly after being born,” said Chris Coffman, Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Our organization is honored to share in such joyous moments in people’s lives.”

To learn more about the Wings Welcome program, visit

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