CCPD reactivates PAL program, seeks community support
After being shuttered for more than a decade, the Cape Coral Police Department has reopened its Police Athletic League as a way to reach out to children and provide them opportunities on the athletic field.
On Thursday, the PAL held a “Breakfast of Champions” fundraiser at Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery to celebrate the kickoff of the reborn program.
Some of Cape Coral’s movers and shakers were there, as well as some who benefitted greatly from being in PAL, past and present.
CCPD Deputy Chief Anthony Sizemore, the executive director of the PAL, said the goal is to take kids and connect them with existing city sports organizations,providing the funding to make that possible.
“The only thing preventing them from participating is financial need, and we fill the gap,” Sizemore said. “It’s about building relationships between the kids and the police department that we hope will be lifelong.”
The Cape Coral PAL was founded in 1994 by former police chief Arnold Gibbs, and followed the traditional PAL model by starting up its own programs run by sworn police officers assigned to it.
The officers served as mentors to the kids, who took part in boxing and martial arts programs.
But when the economic downturn happened in 2008, the CCPD had to move resources to essential functions, such as traffic, preventing crime and catching the bad guys. The program was shuttered.
In 2016, current CCPD Chief David Newlan decided to restart the program. However, it had to be sustainable, which meant coming up with a new plan and a leaner business model.
Spiro & Associates rebranded the PAL and partnered with the Cape Coral Community Foundation to start an endowment, allowing it to accept tax-exempt donations as a 501 (c) 3.
Instead of starting its own leagues with its own people and competing with the many established leagues in the city, the new PAL program will help children by providing them the equipment and registration fees to join established programs such as Little League Baseball and Pop Warner football and cheer.
Sizemore said the PAL is a win-win investment in the community, with the children being the biggest winners as they seek those who have a desire to play.
“There’s a direct correlation that of they have something to lose, if they’re part of a team, they do better in school, have more confidence and better relationships with their peers and parents, which translates to better success,”Sizemore said.
Currently, there are about 15 children in the program. The kids and the parents have to apply, turn in a report card, and the child has to write an essay on what it means to play sports.
Straight A students are, of course, welcome but so are kids who may be having a harder time academically.
Nicholas was one of them. He was struggling in school after moving here with his family from Delaware. Usually, “bad grades” mean you can’t play sports.
Instead, Nicholas was encouraged to play. He signed up for baseball and, with the help of PAL, was able to get the money to register and outfit him.
His mom said since then his grades have soared, and he has made friends along the way.
“We were at a loss and I couldn’t afford to put him in baseball. I have six kids. So, I called Officer Sizemore,” she said. “For him to go from failing every class to passing has been amazing.”
Another person who benefitted from the PAL is Chuck Faucette, new head football coach at Ida Baker High School, who took his experiences with a PAL in New Jersey all the way to the NFL.
“I owe everything to them. Back in the ’70s those were the only programs we had, so I played baseball, football and basketball,” Faucette said. “The person I am, the coach and the father, I owe to a couple coaches from PAL for being the mentors who helped me get to where I’m at.”
For more information, go to www.capecops.com/pal.