By JERMECIA EDWARDS
Children dressed in matching burgundy colored shirts blazed across the gym like meteors during an exhilarating day of games and laughter at the Police Athletic League’s annual Tournament of Champions in South Jamaica, Queens.
“We are just trying to give children exposure to things that they aren’t receiving in public schools,” said field director Theodore Phillips, 32. “Things like recreation, fitness, healthy choice making and leadership.”
The competition, involving children ages five to 13, and featuring sports and intellectual activities, occurs twice a year: during Presidents Week and spring break.
“It’s all about skill-building, which we need in order to be successful in today’s society,” said site director Joshlyn Perry. “Anything that challenges the mind are the type of activities we do with the children at the Edward Byrne PAL.”
Activities include power-fitness challenges, basketball tournaments, Ping-Pong competitions, tower building contests, UNO and checkers tournaments and a spelling bee.
“’Checkers are the most fun because it’s a trivia game that’s active with your head and increases your stamina with thinking,” said Brian, 7, of Far Rockaway, who took part in the checkers competition. “I’m very excited about these competitions because we get to meet new people, enjoy ourselves, have fun and I can practice my sportsmanship.” He leaned back in the chair and grinned.
Recently the PAL program created a new game called the Boat Expo, in which children build a shape and fill it with as many marbles as possible before it sinks. But nothing beats the good old fashioned spelling bee.
“I like the program because they give us food, we get to play and do our homework here so when we get home we can play with our games and watch television,” said Paige Smith-Griffin, 8, who came in second place in the spelling bee.
“They help us learn new things, if we need help with something they are there for us and when we try hard they give us a privilege,” said Yuneydy P., 11, who won first place in the spelling bee.
They were the only kids that could spell the words “wrestle” and “bright” and took home two gold medals.
“If the kids win, we give out medals. But this is not really about awarding the winners, it’s about sportsmanship and getting to see kids from all across the city,” said Phillip