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Police Athletic League summer camps attempt to foster community development

Participants at the Syracuse Police Athletic League camp play lacrosse at Meachem Field behind Clary Middle School, July 8, 2022.
Scott Willis
Participants at the Syracuse Police Athletic League camp play lacrosse at Meachem Field behind Clary Middle School, July 8, 2022.

The first of four week-long Syracuse Police Athletic League summer camps wrapped up on Friday to big success. Nearly 50 children ages 6 to 13 learned the basics of lacrosse. Coach Ray Ryan typically spends his time as an assistant lacrosse coach at Le Moyne College but off-season, he teaches and mentors younger players in various leagues.

“Most of the campers really had never seen lacrosse or picked up a stick. And now in day four here, they, they have the ground balls, the passing and catching and just the simple concepts of the game really down to a science, which is pretty awesome,” Ryan said.

He said the camp goes beyond the fundamentals of the sport.

“It's all about staying positive and being a good teammate, being a good fellow camper and a good friend, and hopefully all of this carries over into the community,” Ryan said.

Rising fourth-grader Eli Withers admits it wasn’t his plan to join the camp, but he embraced the experience.

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Coach Jimmy Oliver has a talk with a camper.

“My mom actually thought it would be a good idea for me to do it, and I guess she was right. I play a lot of different, soccer, baseball—I’ve played hockey,” Withers said.

Syracuse PAL is also offering camps for swimming, art and STEM/STEAM. Jimmy Oliver, director of community engagement with Syracuse Police Department said the classes are filled to capacity but at no charge.

“We didn't want something like this to put a burden on parents.  We want them to worry about their education, clothing, lights, and things of that nature. This should be free. You know, it's outside, it's at a beautiful park around caring adults. This is priceless,” Oliver said.

It also has meaning for Coach Ryan, who picked up his first lacrosse stick on the very same field behind Clary Middle School.

“I went to Roberts kindergarten through eighth grade, and I'm a graduate of Corcoran High School, so there's tremendous pride for the community, for the growth of lacrosse,” Ryan said.

Funding for the Police Athletic League camps come from a variety of sources, including Valley Lacrosse, The United Way, Syracuse City Schools, and a grant from Sen. John Mannion.

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A group of campers sitting on Meachem Field.