KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -- Inside a 128-year-old church, 9-year-old Saryah Johnson is getting something way better than her friends at home playing Fortnite.
“If you just sit there and play video games, you’re not going to learn nothing to protect yourself,” Johnson said.
Kansas City, Kansas’ 8-month-old Police Athletic League program has exploded.
“When we were conceptualizing this, we were thinking we might have 100, 200 kids if we were wildly successful,” Matt Tomasic, the KCK PAL Director said.
The gym now has 600 kids in the program.
So when Major Frank Ise and four others from the Lenexa Police Department jumped into the mix, it could not have come at a better time.
“We started getting more workouts in, more exercise,” Uridia Sanchez, who is 13-years-old said.
“If we’re not active and present with the kids, then they’re going to get bored and stop coming back,” Tomasic said.
It’s not unusual to see police departments joining forces during a chase or a string of burglaries, but that’s because it’s affecting their own communities. In this case, it’s more like that police and fire phrase, mutual aid.
“Mutual aid for mentoring,” Tomasic said.
Mentoring kids like 12-year-old Cal Green, who started just last week.
“We practice shadow boxing. We do a lot of jump roping,” Green said. “It’s like you gotta work your way up to be able to get in the ring. I like challenging things.”
Take it from 13-year-old Marco Romero who’s won four back-to-back Silver Gloves.
“From my past experience, I feel like they learn a lot of dedication, responsibility, focus, determination,” Romero said.
“It’s all about you break down barriers and you build up trust,” Ise said.
They’ve also expanded to more than fitness.
In their garden, they’ve grown 1,100 pounds of organic produce for their kids and their families. They also hit the thousand egg mark with their chickens and have collected more than 100 pounds of honey from their bees.