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PAL gets full-time leader

October 18, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Five years ago, Brett McKoy and Guy McCartney started the Hagerstown Area Police Athletic League on a shoestring budget.

Now McKoy, a Hagerstown City Police officer, has become the league's first full-time director, thanks to a recent grant through the Community Partnership for Children and Families.

The five-year grant provided $19,000 in start-up money for equipment and supplies followed by $40,000 a year for the remainder of the grant period for McKoy's salary and benefits, Lt. Gary Spielman of the Hagerstown City Police said.

The funding was made possible by the Governor's Office on Crime Prevention and Control, Spielman said.

"It all started when McCartney, a Department of Natural Resources officer, called me about starting up a roller hockey program for kids," said McKoy, who was doing a stint with the Washington County Narcotics Task Force.

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Between the two of them, the Police Athletic League was born with help from Jim Deener, director of the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County.

For the next five years, McKoy worked his regular police hours and then spent as much time as he could on PAL activities.

With his new full-time designation, McKoy is planning big things for the organization.

Headquartered in the old clubhouse at the former Hagerstown Fairgrounds, the Police Athletic League has activities six days a week.

There is a wrestling program for youths ages 5 to 14 with practice twice a week, some open mat sessions and competition in the Mason Dixon Wrestling League.

Karate is also offered to youngsters from 5 to 17 at the clubhouse, with a competition team in the works, McKoy said. Weightlifting is also provided.

A 10-week Junior Police Academy is a big part of the league program. The next session starts Saturday. Cadets learn about crime, traffic laws, coping with stress and other aspects of law enforcement.

"A computer lab is also nearly ready for kids to use for homework when they come here after school," McKoy said.

Tutoring is going to be offered.

The renovated upstairs of the clubhouse has a game room and snack bar that McKoy hopes will someday be managed and maintained by the youths who attend the program.

Remodeling of the downstairs gymnasium is under way.

"Much of that work has been done with community service workers provided through the Diversions program in the Washington County State's Attorney's office," McKoy said.

The money has come from a community block grant.

Married with three sons of his own, McKoy, 34, is acutely aware of the need for worthwhile activities for youngsters

The Police Athletic League is a nonprofit organization established in communities all over the country to improve the relationship between police and youth. Opportunities are provided for youth to excel academically and athletically.

"PAL makes a difference in kids' lives. We hear it from parents and the kids themselves," McKoy said.

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