CLEARFIELD – The Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League (WPAL) will open a fitness center with a boxing ring in DuBois. The WPAL fitness center will be located at 37 E. Long. Ave., announced Aaron Beatty and Scott Brigger of the WPAL and OAG Management at Tuesday’s workshop meeting of the Clearfield County Commissioners.
The fitness center will be free to any person who is age 18 or younger or still currently in high school, as well as to area police officers, said Beatty. He explained that the WPAL wants to have a positive impact on the community and mentor youth.
According to him, the Police Athletic League (PAL) exists within many communities nationwide. Further, volunteers – police officers, coaches, teachers and community members – help youth with fitness, homework and other school-related activities, he said.
In some communities, Beatty said the PAL programs have revised the name to “Police Activities League.” He said the PAL programs have evolved to include youth enrichment, educational and leadership programs and not just athletics. The purpose of the PAL programs, Beatty said, is to build character and to strengthen police/community relations while also keeping youth out of trouble.
He said their hope is that through the DuBois-based program, youth will build relationships with area police officers. In turn, he and Brigger hope that relationship will make youth not want to disappoint the officer mentoring them and keep them from breaking the law.
At the same time, Beatty wants police officers to recognize the troubled youth from their fitness center in the community. “Instead of seeing little Jimmy and wondering what he’s up to now. Maybe, they will say, ‘I should check and see if he needs a ride,’” he said.
The fitness center, he said, will be located within walking distance from the DuBois area schools. He said they plan to reach out to the school district and to encourage them to send troubled youth to their program. Brigger added that the center will provide the youth with role models and mentors to look up to.
According to Beatty, he and Brigger have secured the fitness center location and initiated its establishment. He said their fitness center project has been well-accepted by the community and beyond, and they’ve had some materials donated for the building’s renovations.
He said that PAL programs also solicit funds, equipment and volunteer help from their community members. This way, he said, the cost to the taxpayer is small but has great returns with program participants being much less likely to engage in crime and far more likely to praise police officers and to discourage friends from being involved with criminal activity.
PAL programs also offer competitive activities, said Beatty. He added while the majority is held among youth within the same city, other contests take place between teams in different parts of the United States. Beatty said that for many area youth, it’s their first chance to travel; the PAL provides participation in sports, such as soccer, basketball, football and others throughout the United States.
Beatty said that he and Brigger plan to have a “soft opening” in late January or February. However, they hope to have a grand opening with a ribbon-cutting sometime in early March of 2014. Beatty said the fitness center will be open to the general public for a fee, but they haven’t finalized that information.
When asked, Beatty said that he and Brigger will consider expanding its DuBois program to the second-floor of its location at a later time. In addition, he said they will also consider developing programs in other surrounding communities. “We just want to get this one up and running with focus on boxing and fitness, but we think the opportunities are endless,” said Beatty. “We’re really hoping that the DuBois gym will become the model for others to come to western Pennsylvania.”
PAL has existed in the communities of western Pennsylvania to spread the message, “Always for the Kids,” which is to promote positive interaction between youth of all ages and their local police officers. The WPAL has existed for 25 years and has since worked to reach out to communities.
James M. Cvetic, WPAL director and founder, was pleased to see his program spread into the DuBois area. “It’s an area where we have not yet been able to reach, and now that’s possible,” he said. “We’ve seen bonds form and understanding widen. It’s truly a great cause that the WPAL spends a lot of time cultivating in order to help build western Pennsylvania communities.”