One walk-through in an NYPD Cops & Kids gym in Brooklyn is all it took. Dana White had an appreciation for the renovations provided by the NYPD to help improve the program. In two New York boroughs fraught with criminal activity, the Cops & Kids gyms were a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
The UFC boss admitted that he was once a part of a police program. With the intention of removing kids from the street, the local gyms are in place to offer impressionable youth a home away from home.
“I’m very pro-police, pro-military, and who isn’t pro-kids and getting kids off the street,” Dana White said. “Plus, I came out of a PAL program, too, and it changed my life. What you get out of something like this is immeasurable. Lessons learned here, how hard you push yourself in a place like this, the types of people you meet, the different paths that people take, you name it.”
The Cops & Kids program was created in 1985 by retired NYPD officer Pat Russo. While Russo admits the gyms weren’t very popular in their inception, they were an outlet for troubled youth nonetheless. The NYPD’s collective goal is to have the gyms reach all five boroughs of New York.
Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau, is a proponent of the NYPD-sponsored gyms. The program is designed to assist in athletics but also put in place to help with mentorships and academia.
“We have young people who come from all over the city, who take two or three trains, two or three buses, to come to this program because it’s a safe place for them to be,” Maddrey said. “There’s cops and adults from the community – community leaders, elected officials, clergy – that care about them, and it’s free for them to come here, do schoolwork, get homework help, have a mentor, to do physical fitness training. So it’s important that we have places for our young people to go that doesn’t cost them anything. It’s important for their parents, too. It helps the parents when they need a safe place to send them so the parents can work and do the things that are needed around the home.”
In what has become an integral part of the community, Russo’s creation of the Cops & Kids gym serves the neighborhood and inspires hope for young adults from all walks of life.