2020 Redbud supports OKC athletes success - MetroFamily Magazine
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2020 Redbud supports OKC athletes success

by Erin Page

The Redbud Classic is an Oklahoma City institution, but beyond offering family fitness fun, the event has raised more than half a million dollars for local nonprofit organizations since 1983. Each year the fitness event funds a different nonprofit and this year the benefactor will be the Oklahoma City Police Athletic League (OKC PAL).

What is OKC PAL?

In partnership with the Oklahoma City Police Department, OKC PAL provides athletic programs, leadership skills training and service opportunities to Oklahoma City Public Schools students. Nationally, PAL began in New York City and now has several hundred chapters throughout the country.

“When PAL started in 1915, a police officer said we need a program that provides a safe place for kids to play and creates a good relationship between police and youth,” said Peter Evans, executive director of OKC PAL. “When kids are part of a team, they are held to higher standards of accountability, improving grades and actions and putting them on track to graduate.”

OKC PAL operates in 13 OKCPS middle schools, offering basketball, cheer, football, volleyball and soccer, plus providing martial arts to middle school and elementary students at eight additional schools. Students practice at their respective schools after school and play games at the high schools they will eventually attend to ease transportation needs, cultivate school spirit and give students a glimpse of their futures playing high school sports.

In addition to Evans, OKC PAL employs four full-time police officers who serve as mentors, visiting program schools, ensuring student athletes’ grades and behaviors meet program standards and serving as a source of affirmation and encouragement.

“Our officers and coaches come in and help kids with accountability, [encouraging them to] engage with their teachers,” said Evans.

Knowing coaches and teammates are counting on them, student athletes often take the initiative to discuss with teachers how they can improve their grades. Evans says it’s not uncommon for students to turn Ds into Bs or Cs into As.

“Some of our kids get a bad rap,” said Evans. “But we have fantastic kids who will absolutely run through a wall for you if you just show up and show them you care.”

About five years ago, Evans says program leaders noticed participation in OKCPS athletics was in the 30th percentile, while the national participation rate was 55 percent. After an evaluation with district leaders, the team identified three key factors: facilities were in need of repair, the majority of kids in OKCPS didn’t have access to sports equipment and students had little to no foundation for sports.

“Seventy to 90 percent of our kids are playing organized sports for the first time,” said Evans.

By reevaluating its programs and developing its own sports leagues, OKC PAL can focus on teaching athletic fundamentals and building character among its students, with every adult involved, from referees to teachers in the classroom to concession stand volunteers, reinforcing those values.

“Everyone is wrapping around to make sure these kids are getting the message consistently,” said Evans. “Sports is our fun vehicle to teach life lessons, establish character and help kids succeed.”

Around 450 volunteers, including teachers, police officers and community members, serve as coaches and mentors to students on more than 260 teams across all sports. The program has become so popular that last year OKC PAL had to turn away more than 1,000 student athlete hopefuls.

“We get to our capacity but the need is still out there,” said Evans.

May 20, 2017: The OKC PAL (Police Athletic League) holds their championship games at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

OKC PAL works closely with metro nonprofit organizations Fields & Futures, which builds and maintains school athletic fields, and Cleats for Kids, providing sports equipment and gear to under-served athletes. A partnership with Feed the Children provides snacks and meals for student athletes.

“When we all looked at each other and realized we met needs of the others, the programs completely transformed and exploded,” said Evans. “When we collaborate, focus on what we each do well and make programs more efficient, those resources go so much further.”

OKC PAL relies solely on donations and grants, which made their selection as the Redbud’s 2020 benefactor especially sweet. Evans said the support and affirmation of the longstanding Oklahoma City institution means much more than the money itself ever could, both to him and the students he serves.

“For us to be able to show [our students] that groups like this that don’t even know them care about their success goes a really long way with our students,” said Evans. “It warms your heart but also makes you realize this may be the first time that kid has heard [that message].”

For more information about OKC PAL, including how to become a volunteer coach or mentor, visit okcpal.org.

 

2020 Redbud Family Fun Events

Saturday, April 4

1-mile Fun Run, 11 a.m.

Nichols Hills Plaza, N Western Ave. & Avondale Dr.

Perfect for kids ages 1-12, activities begin at 11 a.m. and the fun run begins at noon. $15 registration includes a shirt and medal, plus all participants will enjoy pizza and refreshments from Little Caesar’s Pizza. PAL will provide pre- and post-race activities and entertainment.

1-mile Woof Walk, after 1-mile fun run

Enjoy a stroll with your dog in this NEW event! $15 registration includes a bandanna and treats for the dog and medal for the human.

Sunday, April 5

5k, 1:30 p.m.

West entrance to Waterford Blvd. on Pennsylvania Ave.

$25-$40 registration fee per participant

2-mile Walk and Stroller Derby, 1:45 p.m.

West entrance to Waterford Blvd. on Pennsylvania Ave.

Decorate your stroller for a chance to win the “Best Decorated Stroller” prize! $25-$40 registration fee per participant; children in strollers do not have to be registered.

Redbud Bash, 1 p.m.

Nichols Hills Plaza, N Western Ave. & Avondale Dr.

Enjoy food trucks, free family-friendly games and activities and entertainment. The bash is open to the community.

Registration prices increase March 30. For information on all events, to register or to volunteer, visit redbud.org.

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