Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hoops Ambassadors to Help 'Safe Haven'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hoops Ambassadors to Help 'Safe Haven'

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Kindland, Clay County Line sports writer

A lot of big things have happened in a small gym in Green Cove Springs over the years, but they aren't readily seen.

It will be years before Clay County Police Athletic League volunteers see the fruits of today's labors, but that's OK. They know from decades of experience that providing a "safe haven" for thousands of local children has paid big dividends.

You won't find any studies to justify the league's funding, most of which comes from area businesses and private individuals. There is no paperwork or bureaucratic rigmarole to prove that sports programs and after-school activities held in the little gym on Lemon Street gym are legitimate prevention programs for at-risk children.

The key, Police Athletic League members say, is early intervention.

"[Kids] get into whatever they can get into," said 15-year volunteer Emmitt Alexander. "Without the Police Athletic League, they would hardly have had anything to do."

To help continue its success, PAL volunteers are hoping to sell 2,500 tickets for one of the league's biggest fund-raisers of the year when the Harlem Ambassadors play a team from the Clay County Sheriff's Office at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 19, at the Orange Park High School Raiderdome.

The Ambassadors are a rival group to the Harlem Globetrotters, and the show is part of the Ambassadors' "Around the World" tour.

Their featured player is Lade Majic, the only female coach-player of an all-men's professional team. Majic is said to have played more show basketball games than any woman in sports history.

Many PAL "graduates" have become role models, having gone on to play high school football and basketball. And many of them return from college to help coach or provide leadership, eager to give back what was given to them so freely.

Charles Clark, the quarterback of the 2002 Clay High football team who started as a defensive back for Ole Miss this season, is one of PAL's more celebrated former players. Before him was Larry Richardson, who played basketball at Indiana and at Middleburg and Orange Park in the mid-1990s. …

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