For many children raised in America’s urban core, hopes and dreams disappear in a flash in the harsh realities of un-gentle circumstances.
In Fort Worth, police are trying to do something about breaking the cycles that all too often come with income inequality and broken homes of the city’s distressed communities.
A number of boxers in this week’s Fort Worth Regional Golden Gloves are trained through the Police Athletic League, a nonprofit designed to make the jobs of officers easier and the wrecked communities they patrol better, and, most importantly, to help give the forgotten children a platform to defy their limits and make not despair, but their dreams reality.
The tournament continues through Saturday at the Will Rogers Center’s Watt Arena. The opening bell is 7 p.m.
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“It’s about creating leaders through the sports programs,” said Officer Allen Speed. “We want to bridge a gap between the kids, the community and the police department.”
Founding members of the PAL received department approval and organized in 2016, but didn’t begin offering programs until last June.
To be successful, of course, the police are building and in some cases rebuilding relationships strained through incidents of alleged police brutality that has caused a crisis across the country police’s legitimacy in patrolling neighborhoods.
Boxing is just one component of what the PAL offers. A flag football league consisting of 500 children will kick off in March and run through May. In fact, the PAL is looking for more players. Email Allen.Speed@fortworthtexas.gov.
An after-hours Code Blue basketball league is also available at various recreation centers across the city. In March, officers will take 25 players from the league to a Dallas Mavericks game.
Soon, cheerleading will be offered, and, through the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, the PAL will offer a character-building program.
All of it takes money, of course. And the PAL needs more of in order for the mission to succeed. Speed said the board, made up of civilians, civic leaders and police officers, are looking for area businesses to join the effort as sponsors.
The programs are coached by volunteers and off-duty police officers. Not all the young athletes share the same backgrounds and circumstances.
“The big think we’re doing is giving an opportunity to kids, to give them something larger than themselves,” said Sgt. Buck Wheeler, a board member and driving force to creating PAL. “Many have only a single mother at home or no parent. There’s not a lot of opportunity to participate in athletics and leagues just because of the cost at play.
“The develops the self-esteem that is key to [disrupting] youth and crime. This also gives them a greater capacity of knowing what they can do. That’s what we want to convey: You can succeed even if the odds are against you.”
One of the city’s biggest proponents of the PAL was Chief Joel Fitzgerald, who was a member of a PAL in Pennsylvania as a youth. Wheeler, too, said he benefited from many of the same programs offered. In fact, Wheeler said he experienced homelessness as a child.
Those shared experiences are important to building relationships with children who grow up with an almost inherent distrust of law enforcement. An encounter with police was always bad.
“I’ve had conversations with young guys, who told me, ‘I never thought I’d be talking to a cop,’” said Wheeler. “It’s important to show them that we’re just like everybody else. Keeping people out of jail is more important than putting them in.”
On Tuesday, the first night of the regional tournament, nine boxers from the PAL competed. They box out of east, north and south PALs.
Jordan Corranza of the East Fort Worth PAL, coached by former pro Kendrick Releford, was one of them, winning his first ever fight in the 132-pound Men’s Novice division. He defeated Abdulkadir Senlik.
Speed walked about like a proud father.
“I’ve been working hard day in and day out. It feels really good to actually win,” said Corranza, a 19-year-old from Arlington who has been with PAL for about three months.
“I just work out and go to work, eat and sleep. Boxing makes me live a clean life. I can’t drink or smoke or eat junk food. I have to sleep at a good time and get a good amount of sleep. I have to exercise every day. It’s pretty demanding.”
Just more evidence that no matter how the rest of the week goes, the boxers from the PAL, their coaches and the police will be winning.
And by extension, so will everybody else.
“For the kids, community and the police, this is a win-win- win,” Wheeler said.
60 pounds (8-9): Vershawn Long d. Sebastian Huerta, dec.
65 pounds (8-9): Prince Nimo d. Kevin Lozoya, dec.
70 pounds (8-9): Isaiah Blanco d. Julien Duran, dec.; Isaac Sanchez d. Eric Bonilla, dec.
75 pounds (9-10): Fabian Ortega d. David Mendez, dec.
75 pounds (11-12): Faustio Davila d. Kanon Lightfoot, dec.
80 pounds (11-12): Angel Garza d. Matthew Martinez, dec.; Gabriel Bachert, d. Gavin Tovar, dec.
101 pounds (11-12): Nicholas Cortez d. Anthony Gonzalez, dec.; Dario Garcia d. Sebastian Dayer, dec.
65 pounds (11-12): Jason Esparza d. Martin Vargas, dec.
80 pounds (11-12): Omar Zamarripa d. Valentino Huerta, dec.; Iziah Garcia d. Alonso Neri, dec.
125 pounds (13-14): Brandon Click d. Nathan Molinar, dec.; Francisco Ramirez d. Jarreth Cruz, dec.
101 pounds (13-14): Jesus Zamarripa d. Juan Barron, dec.
119 pounds (15-16): Kwame Nimo d. Daniel Perez, dec.
125 pounds (15-16): Elmer Abrego d. Alejandro Padillo, dec.
132 pounds: Andrew Davis d. Brandon Martinez, dec.; Dearon Dursey d. Ivan Fraire,
dec.; Manuel Ochoa d. Dylan O’Neal, default; Jordan Corranza d. Abdulkadir Senlik, dec.
165 pounds: Juan Carlos DeLeon d. Nathan Primous, dec.; Darren Whitney d. Daryl Mick, dec.; Tyler Hoselton d. Brandon Medrano, default; Jacob Fernandez d. Kuinteion Newman, dec.
55 pounds (8-9): Ethan Mares vs. Daniel Segovia.
75 pounds (8-9): Alex Benavidez vs. Juan Avila.
80 pounds (9-10): Isaac Flores vs. Christopher Madrid.
60 pounds (8-9): Angel Vargas vs. Jaden Sanchez.
80 pounds (10): Eduardo Rangel vs. Mesiah Nimo.
101 pounds (11-12): Daniel Garcia vs. Nicholas Cortez; Dario Garcia vs. Alejandro Velazquez.
110 pounds (11-12): Ty Hill vs. Kennett McLane.
125 pounds (11-12): Marcelino Issaac vs. Victor Delgadillo
90 pounds (12): Joseph Rios vs. Nestor Mejia.
95 pounds (12-13): Christian Cantu vs. Isaac Nunez.
106 pounds (13-14): Miguel Huerta vs. Jessie Mendez.
90 pounds (13-14): Michael Fernandez vs. Eric Martinez.
132 pounds (15-16): Phil Hanley vs. Jake Parrish; Mateus Deliberato vs. Ryan Austin.
154 pounds (15-16): Arturo Ortega vs. Jake Reynolds.
123 pounds: Carlos Pena vs. Vicenzo Ramos.
152 pounds: Eric Gonzales vs. Jason Chambers; Myron Anderson vs. Josue Carreon; Christian Raney vs. Brandon Alvarez.
132 pounds: Kevin Otero vs. Taylor Hill.
165 pounds: Jeremiah Morris vs. Chaudrion Hughes.