It would be interesting to read the results of a study about the benefits of summer activities programs for children.
We are not aware any such study has been done, but we would bet the beneficial outcomes of summer programs are significant. Children who partake in structured summer activities, we would wager, turn out to be more successful, healthier, happier and more socially connective than children who do not have an option for healthy summer activities.
That is why we salute the Sartell Police Activities League program, which will celebrate its 20th year at its first meeting: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11 at East Sartell’s Val Smith Park. The Sartell program has been so successful for so long because so many people passionately care about the program, in which success begets success. A good thing is its own best advertisement, and that is the case with Sartell PAL.
First of all, the program reflects a long-standing and deep commitment to youth by the Sartell Police Department and the City of Sartell. Police officer Dan Whitson founded Sartell’s version of PAL 20 years ago. He and fellow officer Adam Vande Vrede have led and nurtured the program for years. Those two officers, who are marvelous in their ability to relate well to children, deserve our thanks. Both are school-resource officers who work wonders with children during the school season, not to mention summer.
City staff, such as the park department, and the Sartell-St. Stephen Community Education program have also been a big help every year in keeping the program alive and growing.
Last but not least, parents, guardians and companies large and small have generously helped to make PAL a wonderful program for children. They, too, deserve kudos.
PAL is free for participants, and it’s truly egalitarian, welcoming all children, including out-of-towners. Many of the children in PAL come from low-income families, those who probably cannot afford structured, supervised summer-play time for their kids. It’s a truism that idle children on long summers with few constructive activities can quickly get into trouble of one sort or another. Programs like PAL can keep them on a good path. In their playtime relations with others – both fellow children and caring adults – they learn social skills and realize they are valued and accepted members of a larger local world. Such character traits and confidence can last them a lifetime.
Unlike some area cities, which closed down their PAL programs, Sartell PAL is thriving. Thousands of children have benefited from it in incalculable ways. We hope it continues to thrive well into the future.