Foust sees second generations come through Odessa PAL

For the past 21 years, Odessa Police Department Sgt. Jon Foust has watched hundreds of children participate in the Odessa Police Athletic League.

Foust said he has been in charge of the program long enough to see second generations come through the program.

The Odessa PAL has been around for the past 27 years. It’s a four-week program that offers children ages 8 to 12 the opportunity to participate in summer activities.

“I have children of children that I started with. Now, I know what a teacher feels like,” Foust said with a smile. “It’s important that those kids trust me enough to bring their kids back to me. It’s good for my heart.”

Due to the overwhelming demand for the four-week program, Odessa PAL has added a second session for the second straight year.

There are 75 children signed up for each session. The first session began Monday and will continue until June 28. The second session is from July 8 to Aug. 2. The program is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

OPD spokesperson Cpl. Steve LeSueur said each session filled up quickly. There are about 350 PALs throughout the country, but very few in Texas. Foust said the closest PAL to Odessa is in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

“The response that we receive is overwhelming,” LeSueur said. “We don’t really have to advertise for it. As soon as we put it out there that we are having registration, it fills up within minutes for both sessions.”

Three 13-year-olds that previously participated in the program are now volunteers.

Ariana Rincon of Odessa knew she wanted to be a volunteer when she was 10. She first participated in the Odessa PAL when she was 8.

“Being a volunteer, it is amazing,” Rincon said. “We get to help these kids achieve their goals and they learn how to play different sports. It’s really fun.”

Ciandra Mendoza of Dallas said it’s a tradition to spend time in Odessa during the summer.

Foust said the volunteers must come through the program and can be a volunteer until they are 18. Foust added there are between eight and 12 officers that help each day of camp. He also said officers are welcome to volunteer on their days off.

 “I’ve been in this program since I was 7,” Mendoza said. “I always had fun and listened to the officers and liked playing the games.”

Rincon and Mendoza were both assisting officers as children played football. Children also play volleyball, basketball, soccer, tug-o-war and capture the flag. Foust said the children’s favorite activity, which is used as a reward, is dodgeball.

Sierra Britton of Odessa enjoys working with children. She added that she has a greater appreciation for the officers and volunteers in the program.

“It’s fun to be a volunteer and to be a participant,” Britton said. “You get to see what the kid’s perspective is and now what it’s like for the volunteers.”