Fundraiser finds a PAL for charity

Sal Felice, Wade Jacobson, Mitch Burley and Jason Kerns will represent Hollister along with others at Friday’s PAL basketball game against former Bay Area professional athletes. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

There’s no question the San Benito County Police Activities League does great work, partnering with cities to bring such programs as the wildly successful Junior Giants, United States Tennis Association H.I.T.S. program and countless other athletic and educational opportunities for youth.
However, the PAL depends on public support—both monetarily and volunteers—to keep everything afloat. On Friday, the San Benito County PAL presents its biggest fundraising event of the year, a basketball game pitting San Benito County PAL against celebrity All Stars.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at San Benito High. Doors open at 6:30, and the admission/donation is $20. Proceeds from the game go to the PAL and its programs, including gang resistance.
“It’s a great event,” said Mitch Burley, one of the top players on the PAL team, the San Benito High girls basketball coach and an active player in the Hollister Recreation League. “Last year’s game was well attended, and it’s always nice when people can come out and support the PAL.”
Some of the other notable names on the PAL roster include Anthony Butler, Wade Jacobsen, Sal Felice and Jason Kearns. The one confirmed attendee for the celebrity All Stars is Ruthie Bolton, a former Olympian and WNBA star.
“Ruthie can shoot the lights out,” Felice said. “The daylight she needs to get a shot off from 20 feet is not very much. I guarded her a lot last year, and she filled it up on me pretty good. There’s no shame in that—she’s got bigger guns (arms) than me.”
Ultimately, though, the event focuses on family and community.
“None of us want to lose, but at the same time we understand why we’re out there,” Felice said. “We’re playing for a good cause. When we did the game last year, I was hoping I would be asked to come back and play. It’s a fun time.”
“It was a great atmosphere last year,” said Al De Vos, who is the director/treasurer of the SBC PAL. “There was a lot of excitement, and it was family oriented. Toward the end of the game, the kids got a chance to play.”
The SBC PAL works in partnership with Hollister to provide programs like Junior Giants, which as of two weeks ago had already registered a whopping 640 kids for the upcoming season, with more sign-ups to come. Participation is free. A year ago, 540 kids signed up to participate in Junior Giants.
“We try to eliminate barriers to participation,” De Vos said. “It’s against pay to play. We tapped into a need for the community to have a place where kids can play and have the gear provided for them and not have to pay fees.”
What makes the Junior Giants program so interactive is the fact that many of the kids’ parents and their relatives are volunteers in the program. That gives the community a sense of ownership.
“Junior Giants is a win-win all the way around,” De Vos said. “Junior Giants provide the training and resources for adults. So we’re weaving the fabric of the community together. That’s what the PAL is all about—creating more community.”
De Vos said the H.I.T.S. program has also been a smashing success. Kids gather three times a week at the newly repaved tennis courts at Dunne Park to take part in drills, matches and learning programs. The H.I.T.S. program is the tennis version of Junior Giants.
“They have very good drills for kids in different age groups,” De Vos said. “They use neutral/zero pressure balls—they are bigger and have less pressure, so it’s easier to control (a shot).”
SBC PAL programs educate kids in a variety of ways, including teamwork, gang resistance and health.

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