NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dozens of golfers are helping raise money for the Police Athletic League Friday.
Police recently expanded operations of the PAL center at 18th Street and White Avenue.
The Police Athletic League is one of the few proactive outreach efforts where urban core kids get to see police officers as real people.
During the last seven years, donations have helped renovate an old community center, which was going to be condemned. Instead, $2.5 million worth of repairs have been made, providing children with a safe place to go after school to learn sports and camping. Some of the kids have never even rode a bicycle before coming to PAL.
Mostly though, the program helps cut crime by providing kids a positive path to escape poverty.
"When you talk to the kids and they are forced with a decision to make, whether to go down a good path or a bad path many of them will tell you, 'I don’t want to disappoint one of our boxing coaches," said Christine Lentz, the PAL board president. "'I don’t want to make Coach Anthony upset at me. I want to make sure what I am doing makes them proud of me.'"
Police Chief Richard Smith this summer extended the PAL Center's hours so that it would be open for kids during nights and weekends, when school is not in session.
Friday's fundraiser hopes to raise $60,000 for PAL programs, including a computer lab, where urban core kids can do their homework or prepare for college board tests.
PAL has proven to be an important tool to change perceptions of police as the enemy. Officers say some kids come back to the program after they've grown to report suspicious activity or other crime concerns in their neighborhood.