TUPELO • When the coronavirus prevented the Tupelo Police Athletic League from hosting its normal summer camps, officials decided to flip things around.

Instead of bringing the kids to the PAL for the camps, they decided to take the camps to the kids.

Throughout the summer, PAL will host mini camps all across the city. There will be a focus on athletics (primarily basketball) but officials will also bring in guest speakers.

“One thing I had been pushing was to go to different areas of the city to do enrichment – skill drills to help them improve dribbling and passing,” said PAL director Lt. Katarsha White. “The pandemic forced us to cancel our normal summer programs, but it gave use a chance to try something different.”

The first PAL Mobile was held this week at Gum Tree Park. Boys and girls in grades 5-8 were invited out to the basketball court on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon until 2:30 p.m. Because of social distancing guidelines, each day is limited to 20 total participants. Participants must be signed up by a parent and free of any COVID-19 symptoms for at least two weeks. There is no charge for the camp and lunch is served on Fridays.

“It started off slow but picked up as the week went on,” said Tupelo Deputy Police Chief Anthony Hill. “Despite whatever else is going on in the world, it is important for us to invest in the kids.

“That’s why we have other officers, especially school resource officers, to meet the kids. It gives them a face and lets them know that when they go back to school, there will be an officer there, someone they can trust.”

PAL Mobile will remain at Gum Tree Park next week to give more kids a chance to take part. The camps will then begin their tour of the city, trying to hit as many neighborhoods as possible before school starts back.

“We’ve got the whole summer taken up with events,” White said. “Every week we have something except for the week of the Fourth of July.

“It’s all new to us and we are still figuring things out. We might change things up and we might do kickball.”

While they do have the entire summer mapped out, officials are not releasing the schedule ahead of time. The locations of each week will be posted on the PAL Facebook page the week before. Since only 20 kids are allowed each day, the surprise aspect will help make sure as many different kids as possible get a shot at participating.

Officials are using this summer as a testing bed for PAL Mobile. When the pandemic ends and things get back to normal, White hopes to keep the traveling show. She hopes to be able to use PAL Mobile as a one-day Saturday event throughout the year.

william.moore@journalinc.com

Twitter:@WilliamMoore_DJ

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