MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — The Martin County Police Athletic League is feeling some growing pains.
The league, otherwise known as PAL, is becoming more popular in Martin County than expected.
Martin County PAL volunteers say it’s a good problem to have, meaning their program is attractive to a lot of children and teens.
But, it also means kids are feeling cramped, and organizers are feeling worried about how they will be able to serve more youth in the future.
Martin County PAL is hoping to find more volunteer coaches, from any athletic background.
But, the biggest need is a new, larger space.
Blaine Dameron has been coming to PAL for a few months.
Boxing is the league’s primary sport.
“It’s fun,” Dameron said. “I told all my friends, and they told all their friends.”
Executive Director Noel Del Valle said Martin County PAL has not even been running for a year.
“This has actually been a huge surprise for us. When we started out, we had maybe a dozen kids,” Del Valle said. “Thursday night, we had 22 kids in here… we’re running as lean as we can right now with the space we have.”
The non-profit organization serves the youth of all ages, and from different backgrounds. Some teens and children join for fun. Some are at-risk youth needing a safe place to spend time after school. Others are court mandated to show up. “We also have support from the county for kids who have gotten in trouble in school, they’re starting to come here on a daily basis,” Del Valle said.
That is why it is important for Martin County PAL to be able to continue to accept as many new children as possible.
In a larger space, they could also offer more programs in the future to appeal to children with various interests. That could include leadership and mentorship programs, after-school art programs and vocational training.
If they can not find a larger space or get more coaching volunteers, they might have to make some tough decisions.
"We might get to that point where we have to turn them away,” Del Valle said.