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Feb, 2018

Fitchburg police Officer Gordon giving back through youth sports

FITCHBURG -- Dave Gordon considers himself a police officer and a volunteer, but is hesitant to claim all the credit for leading the Police Athletic League of North Central Massachusetts.

The credit, he said, belongs to the people who put in up to 20 hours each week to coach and raise money for the regional youth league.

"We put our heart and soul into this project," Gordon said. "All of us."

The goal of PAL is to give kids a chance to interact with police through sports. Gordon, president of the league based in Fitchburg, said the league also keeps them busy, active, and allows officers to build relationships with them.

Gordon helped start the league in 2007 because he wanted to give back to the community and was tired of seeing kids getting into trouble. He has served as a patrol officer for the Fitchburg police for 17 years.

"It's good that kids can recognize an officer as a mentor and not just someone in a uniform," he said.

On a Sunday afternoon, the league's traveling winter basketball team played at Memorial Middle School. Gordon, who arrived after his shift at the Fitchburg Police Department, donned a red PAL athletic shirt that resembled the red and white uniforms of the PAL team.

Some officers are involved with PAL, Gordon said, but most of the volunteers are from the community. They often work full-time jobs and make time to coach.

The league serves kids from Lunenburg, Westminster, surrounding towns, and some from New Hampshire.

They come to play basketball year-round and flag football, which is hosted with the Fitchburg Parks and Recreation Department in the spring.

Gordon hopes PAL can work with the YMCA to start a tumbling program to help attract more girls to PAL.

Over the course of a year, about 450 students from pre-kindergarten to high-school age play in the league, Gordon said.

There are many success stories from kids from league who went on to college or into the workforce, Gordon said. He's still in contact with some of them, including one he coached who is now a police officer in another town.

He also runs the league's business operations and raises money to help keep the league affordable for families. Fundraising is also typically a group effort among the volunteers, Gordon said.

Gordon said he is proud of the work volunteers do for PAL and what the league has to offer.

"You can go week to week and collect a paycheck, go home, and be in your little box," Gordon said. "But until you get out in the community, you won't experience the good feeling from helping people and making the community better."

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