UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson and Middleweight Contender Uriah Hall visited St. Benedict PAL on February 26th, 2014 with an important message relating to Black History Month: take advantage of opportunity.
Hall and Johnson were on a tour of major US cities helping youth organizations celebrate Black History Month and its profound meaning. Thanks to PAL Board Member Ike Richman of Comcast-Spectacor, the duo made their local stop extra special for the kids in North Philadelphia’s St. Benedict PAL Center. Hall and Johnson talked with children about their African-American heroes and the groundwork previously laid to ensure equality and fairness for all. They discussed heroes Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and more.
Following the enlightening discussion, kids had a chance to talk to the fighters about their careers and what led them to their own success. Johnson and Hall told children to take advantage of the opportunities they encounter both at school and at PAL. These opportunities, they said, will lead to success. The fighters shared their stories with the kids and let them know how important it is to work hard in all they do, and to make the right choices in life that will positively affect their futures. Johnson and Hall also led the children in an interactive self-defense workout. Youngsters were treated to gear and clothing from the UFC and the opportunity for pictures and autographs with these two stars of the octagon.
PAL thanks Ike Richman and UFC and for bringing this opportunity to PAL youth.
There’s an old saying that things occur in threes. This week, three of the five wrestlers from the Philadelphia area who will be competing in the Pennsylvania State Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, started their wrestling careers in Port Richmond’s Rizzo PAL Center.
Joe Galasso, who attends Father Judge High School, a 2013 State Champion – the first ever from Philadelphia, will be at the event along with Idris White from Father Judge and Greg Konieczny from La Salle College High School. This will be White’s and Konieczny’s first trip to the State Championships. The three-day tournament starts on Thursday and ends on Saturday, March 8th.
PAL Wrestling Coach, Ed Schneider, who is a National PAL Hall of Famer, has coached all three of these talented individuals. According to Schneider, the three powerhouses from PAL were not immediately successful in their wrestling careers, but it was years of practice, dedication and commitment to the wrestling lifestyle that now allow them to achieve at such a high level.
Coach Schneider said Galasso, who lives in Port Richmond, has been wrestling at PAL since he was 9 years old and is now attempting to get his third medal from the State. “When he was about 12,” said Schneider, “he really advanced to the national level in youth sports. His Dad and Mom began taking him to tournaments all over the place.” Schneider commented that Galasso, now 18, still visits PAL to train and to help with the younger wrestlers .
White, a 17 year old schoolmate of Galasso’s who grew up in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood kicked off his wrestling career at PAL in 2006. “Idris really developed as a 7th and 8th grader. He and his brother Anthony are both great wrestlers,” Schneider shared.
Knoieczny, who is a Junior at La Salle High School, wrestled at PAL for many years. “Greg has been wrestling at PAL since he was five years old. His brothers are currently wrestling at PAL,” added Schneider.
Rizzo PAL Director P/O Ernie Rehr, Coach Schneider and fellow coaches Jim Mangan, Brandon Black, Chris Chambers and Lender Vega are all extremely proud of these three accomplished wrestlers. “In the years they were at PAL, each and every one of them was dedicated, put the time into the sport and eventually learned to do all the little things correctly, which now allows them to achieve at high levels,” said Schneider.
PAL congratulates Galasso, White and Konieczny on their achievements and wishes them luck in the upcoming Championships.
To find out more about the PAL Wrestling Program, visit the PAL Wrestling Club Facebook Page.
On February 27th, 2014, more than 200 PAL kids were in the stands at the Wells Fargo Center to watch their hometown 76ers take on the Orlando Magic. The 28th annual PAL Night at the 76ers allowed PAL children from across the City to take part in a special event fundraiser that brought in more than $10,000 for the Police Athletic League’s youth development programming.
Event sponsors, which included SugarHouse Casino and NECA, Penn-Del-Jersey Chapter/IBEW Local 98, took center court before the game to present PAL with generous gifts during a special check presentation ceremony. Immediately after the ceremony, dozens of excited PAL kids lined the entry tunnel and greeted the Sixers with high fives. Following this, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, PAL Commanding Officer Lt. William Eddis and Executive Director Ted Qualli presented an award to Sixers Rookie of the Year Candidate Michael Carter-Williams for his dedication and commitment to being a great role model for Philadelphia’s young people.
PAL’s sponsors, Commissioner’s Club Members, Police Brass and special guests, celebrated the occasion from a suite where they enjoyed mingling and taking in the game.
During halftime, a team of PAL children from Gibbons PAL in Northeast Philadelphia made the night extra special by taking on a team of Media All-Stars on the Sixers’ court. The thrilling matchup was highlighted by a special guest – Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil helped coach the PAL kids to a tremendous victory over the team of media stars.
The evening was capped with a special honor for one very important member of the PAL team. Police Officer Steven Brennan, who was first assigned to the PAL Unit in 1994, was presented with the Sixers’ Heroes Among Us Award by 76ers legend World B. Free. Officer Brennan was honored for his work in the community over the past twenty years. He then stayed on court for a special check presentation through which the Sixers generously donated half of the proceeds of the evening’s 50/50 drawing to PAL.
PAL thanks the 76ers, all sponsors, friends and guests who made this an exciting night for PAL.
PAL Mathletes Crowned in 24 Math Challenge
On February 24th and 25th, more than 150 young mathematicians from across the City participated in PAL’s annual 24 Math Challenge sponsored by Stradley Ronon. After months of practice, fifth through eighth graders played in a two-night competition where they added, subtracted, divided and multiplied their way to 24.
First through fourth place champions in each age group were rewarded with plaques and special gifts. All players received shirts for their courage to compete and dedication to enhancing their math skills. Congratulations to first place winners Jordan from Ford and Aris from Rizzo PAL centers (5th grade), Bryan from Southwest and Dajour from Paley PAL centers (6th grade), Eric from North Penn and Kyfee from Logan PAL centers (7th grade) and Nahemiah from Paley PAL and Cindy from Southwest PAL, who scored an astounding 275 points (8th grade).
The 24 Math Challenge sponsored by Stradley Ronon is not just a fun head-to-head battle of speed and problem solving – participants practice mental math while also becoming more confident in their abilities as a student. The game is used as a tool in classrooms throughout the country to make math fun for all students.
PAL thanks Board Member Mark Dorval and Stradley Ronon for their continued commitment to Philadelphia’s youth, as well as volunteers from Temple University and Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law.
PAL Members Sworn in to City Government for the Day
On February 21st, twenty remarkable PAL members shadowed Philadelphia City Officials as a part of PAL Day at City Hall sponsored by Lockheed Martin. One high school junior or senior from each PAL center was nominated by his or her Center Director for actively participating in PAL programming for many years. PAL officials were paired with positions based on their career interests.
The teens and their mentors were sworn in by City Solicitor Shelley Smith, vowing their loyalty to the city of Philadelphia and its citizens. They heard remarks from Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, PAL Commanding Officer Lt. Bill Eddis, PAL Executive Director Ted Qualli, Lockheed Martin Vice President, Strategy and Business Development Gerry Fasano, Hon. Mayor Nutter and PAL Mayor Alexis from Harrowgate PAL. All speakers encouraged participants to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime experience and share their ideas to make Philadelphia a better place.
Following the ceremony, PAL members went to work with the City Officials. The twenty unique and exciting experiences included visiting the juvenile detention center, meeting other prominent Philadelphians and even joining in a conference call with the White House.
PAL thanks Lockheed Martin for their continued support of positive programming like PAL Day at City Hall, participating City Officials for mentoring Philadelphia’s future leaders, and the Office of the City Representative for coordinating the very successful event.
Fun Carnival Kicks Off PAL Basketball Season
On February 17, 2014, two-hundred PAL youngsters enjoyed a thrilling Basketball Carnival at Penn’s historic Palestra. The event kicked off PAL’s Fitz Dixon Citywide Basketball season and kept children safe and active in constructive programming on Presidents’ Day when they were off from school.
The boys and girls practiced their basketball skills with volunteers from the Philadelphia 76ers, rehearsed dance routines with the 76ers’ Dream Team, played miniature golf and Connect Four, had their faces painted and more. Attendees were also treated to a performance by the PAL Cheerleaders and 76ers Flight Squad after lunch. PAL Police Officers were glad to share a fun experience with deserving PAL children.
PAL thanks the University of Pennsylvania Division of Public Safety and Penn Athletics, Philadelphia 76ers and Mr. Magic Family Entertainment for making this event so exciting for PAL members across the City.
View more pictures from the PAL Basketball Carnival here!
Although the Denver Broncos didn’t win the Super Bowl on Sunday, the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia is proud of one of its larger-than-life PALs, Broncos’ Defensive End Shaun Phillips, for reaching for the stars and being a positive role model for Philadelphia’s youth. PAL considers Phillips to be a true winner.
Phillips, a Philadelphia native, mentioned during last week’s media day how much Philly PAL had an impact on his life. Growing up inner-city Philadelphia, Phillips turned to PAL after school for guidance, friendship and fun. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Zach Berman wrote an article about Phillips, in which he discussed just how important PAL, and his PAL Center Director and mentor, retired Police Officer Mel Kilgore, were to him. “‘One of the best things about Philly, for me, was the Police Athletic League,’ Phillips said. ‘The PAL did a wonderful job of molding me to the person I am now, just because it kept me out of the streets and it kept me doing some positive.’ Phillips, 33, was raised on 30th Street and Girard Avenue. Once school let out, he rushed to the Logan PAL center. He stayed until 6 p.m., went home for a one-hour dinner break, and then returned to the PAL from 7 to 9 p.m. He played all types of sports except organized football.”
The Logan PAL Center is still a thriving hub of positive activity and a beacon of hope in the community it serves. Although Phillips’ Police Officer Mel Kilgore is retired, PAL is proud to see his impact living on in Shaun Phillips, and is glad to say it is still actively serving children and teens with wholesome after-school and summer programs at the Logan PAL Center.
PAL congratulates Phillips for his achievements, accomplishments and for choosing to stay on the right path in life. Phillips is a shining star in the eyes of the youngsters PAL serves on a daily basis.