PAL Girls’ Olympics held

Girls ran, jumped and thrilled the audience Friday, March 23, at the PAL’s Webster-Giannone Center on Webster Avenue.

Girl Power roared through the Bronx — and the entire city — Friday, March 23.

At the Police Athletic League’s Webster-Giannone Center at 2255 Webster Avenue, 37 neighborhood third- to eighth-grade girls demonstrated their skills to a packed bleacher section of screaming fans. Similar events took place at the same time at P.S. 48 in Hunts Point and at another 14 PAL centers citywide. Weill Cornell Medical College was the PAL’s cosponsor. Other sponsors included the Department of Youth and Community Development and the state Department of Education.

On Webster Avenue, the girls showed off their skills with a series of warm-ups that included sit-ups, jumping jacks and, most impressively, Marine Corps-perfect push-ups to counts of 20 and above. “They don’t see it as exercise,” said center director Jennie Bonilla. “They see it as fun.”

The center on a typical day hosts 120 youths, according to Bonilla. At night, another 60 teens make use of the facility. Another eight basketball teams sponsored by NYPD volunteers play their games there.

Amid the cacophony and the give-your-all efforts across a variety of obstacles — race courses and tasks like jumping rope and running through hoops — Bonilla, with 15 years PAL experience, noted budget cuts in tight times have impacted the PAL’s programs. “We are seeing the effects of cuts,” she said. “They have affected programs. But we have a very direct path for allocated funds to get directly to the youths. The money is not lost in administrative costs.” The efforts have paid off: This summer, “as it as for many years,” the PAL will run its storied summer cams from July 9-August 24. One-hundred youths from the Webster-Giannone facility will attend summer camp this year, in keeping with what Bonilla and the staff of 18 see as their mission: “To provide safe, fun environment.”

Theo Phillips is PAL’s borough director for the Bronx and Manhattan. He was on-site on Webster Avenue and said, “This particular program provides a lot of self-confidence for young women. It empowers them.” And, gesturing toward the packed bleachers, “The girls get a real kick out of being cheered on.” He, too, addressed budget cuts, but said strategic planing at the recession’s beginning four years ago has seen the PAL programs through the tough times.

“Our programs remain solid,” Phillips said. “I am cnfident our continued pursuit of funding will be fruitful.” He said some 2,000 youths citywide use PAL facilities daily.

The PAL signature programs remain academic help and physical fitness. “These are critical, especially with the loss of arts and gym funding in schools,” Phillips said .

This was the third officially titled PAL Annual Girl Sport Day. It was preceded March 22 by a nutrition workshop.

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