In thinking back over the last 11 years, I have had a lot of connections with some incredible PAL youth. One of the most memorable is Ronnell. Ronnell went from a kid who was homeless to a young man who went to college. During his first semester at Northwest, I took him to and from the campus numerous times with conversations ranging from sports to family. He was part of my family as we talked about him and cared about him all the time. One of the most memorable times for me was several years later when Ronnell came back to the PAL Center. Dion called me and said he had somebody who wanted to talk with me. Ronnell got on the phone just to say hi, as we had lost touch because his family moved around a lot. He started to cry as we talked. It was an emotional call as we caught up. I was full of pride for the young man he had become.
PAL is a special place for everyone involved. One of our volunteer coaches told me I saved his life with my support of him and his introduction to the PAL youth. Coach Cameron was our initial coach of our Running Club several years ago as our paths crossed. I did not know until recently how much Cameron “needed” PAL in his life. He was new to KC, and things fell into place for him with purpose through PAL. At my retirement, Cameron shared how much his life was changed because of my belief in him and his ability to connect with the PAL youth through running. I am humbled to have him in my life.
I have been a part of a team that has constructed hundreds of projects at the Center … more than $5 million dollars in improvements and construction at the PAL Center through donors, volunteers, corporate sponsors and grants, while also fundraising over $3 million to support PAL programming over those years.
At the National Annual PAL Conference, we created and delivered curriculum several years in a row to assist other PAL Chapters in North America. In 2019, I was asked to represent our organization in Austria and New Zealand at the International Blue Light Conference in Queenstown, New Zealand. There were over 100 organizations in the South Pacific represented who learned about our PAL program. It was a great honor to share our story of Kansas City. Obviously a very memorable experience!
Probably my greatest accomplishment at PAL was to be part of a team who provided the foundation/environment for a lot of special officers and volunteers to connect with PAL youth and their families. I never saw my immediate role as the day-to-day operations for PAL. I felt like my job was to provide everything I could for others to be successful in building the positive relationships with the PAL families daily. That was everything from constructing a football field from scratch, designing a new basketball court, and installing new locker rooms to securing new vans for the PAL Officers, hiring a cleaning company to maintain the building so the officers didn’t have to, sharing stories to draw in new sponsors and donors or developing the wellness and resiliency program for our youth. Every day was different. I saw my role to clear the path so others could be successful, ultimately impacting generations of youth and their families. And for that, I am grateful.