STRATFORD, Conn. — Stratford youth will have a lot more fun and safe things to do around town thanks to a $25,000 state grant for the Stratford Police Activities League, better known as PAL.
State Sen. Ed Gomes (D-Bridgeport, Stratford), state Reps. Joseph Gresko (D-121) and Laura Hoydick (R-120) and town officials joined together Friday to announce the funding at the Police Department.
“This will go a long way to keeping youth on track,’” said Mayor John Harkins.
The money comes from funds set aside for violence prevention, Gomes said.
Police Lt. Melissa Niemiec, who oversees Stratford PAL, said the funding has not been earmarked for any particular PAL program yet. The league, an organization of both police officers and residents formed in 1954, runs a robust lineup of programs, including a Police Explorers Program, boxing, cross fit, martial arts and a rifle league, which had nine members honored recently as all-state athletes .
The league also supports Pop Warner football and cheerleading, Stratford United soccer, softball and Stratford Little League and will be breaking ground on a community garden this summer.
“Everything is either no cost or low cost to the families,” Niemiec said.
The aim is to keep kids involved in positive activities and building relationships with town police officers and other role models.
“Our communities are safer when we work together,” Gomes said. “This grant for the Stratford PAL will help fund more activities and opportunities for Stratford police officers to build relationships and trust with the youth in our community. Our kids are safer when they are building character and leadership skills in programs like the Police Explorer Program and various athletic leagues.”
Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour said he’s always impressed with the popularity of PAL programs. When the group offered cartooning this year, organizers expected about eight students would show up. They ended up with 40 and had to break it into two sessions to accommodate everyone, he said.
He said he’s confident the state funds will go to good use.
“All I can say is ‘wow,’” Ridenhour said.