Suffolk County’s Police Athletic League has a lesser known division dedicated to helping only children with special needs called the Special P.A.L.
“[Special needs children] need exercise like we do,” says Special P.A.L board member Fred O’Meally.
Several times each year, the Special P.A.L holds a free morning of sports and games at St. Peter’s By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in Bay Shore. It’s about every other Saturday from October to May (dates below).
Parents can bring their children between ages 5 to 12 for a fun and safe environment, according to the Special P.A.L.
Many different sports are available to play, like basketball, hockey, and bowling. There is also a more quiet area for children to complete puzzles, color, and have fun with Play-Doh.
O’Meally, who helped establish this program nearly a decade ago, in 2009, said he’s seen over those years how impactful it can be.
“A little 4-year-old kid came running over to her mother, looks at her, and says ‘Mommy I am having fun’,” he recalled of one instance. “The mother turned to us and says, ‘That’s the first time my child ever said they are having fun.'”
But, the special needs children aren’t the only one’s benefitting. Parents are able to interact with one another and share resources. And siblings also are invited to play.
“When siblings gets to meet another sibling of a special needs child, they create bonds,” said O’Meally.
The program is held at St. Peter’s By-The-Sea at 500 South Country Road in Bay Shore. It runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The children are paired with student-volunteers, but all parents must stay on-site.
Here are the dates for the rest of the year:
- Jan. 20
- Feb. 3 and 10
- March 3 and 17
- April 14 and 28
- May 5 and 19
Top: One of the free program days hosted by Special P.A.L in December. (courtesy)