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Selma PAL’s annual charity basketball game brings Christmas to kids in need

By Oniska Blevins | The Selma Times-Journal

The Selma Police Department and Selma Fire Department are going head to head in a friendly basketball game for a cause.

The Team Up for Toys Basketball Game will be on Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. in the Selma High School gym. Admission is either an unwrapped toy or $5 donation.

For the past 15 years, the Team Up for Toys Basketball game has been a Christmas toy drive for children in the Selma Police Athletic League (PAL) according to executive director of Selma Police Athletic League, Detective Dorothy Cowan.

“Each year, we have Santa and his elves give out the toys. Most of the time we have enough toys to accommodate 100-200 kids,” Cowan said.

Cowan said the idea came about in a conversation with other law enforcement officers 15 years ago and they decided to do the basketball game to benefit local children. She believes the basketball game shows the community that law enforcement is here to help not harm.

“We are just here to help you and not just see what you’re doing wrong or criticize or judge you. We just want to be a part of the community,” Cowan said.

With a mission to “fill playgrounds, not prisons,” the Selma Police Athletic League, started in 1998, is an after-school program for youth ages 7-17. The program provides youth with activities, basketball teams, service projects and more. There is no fee to sign up for PAL.

Cowan said its mission is to build positive relationships between police officers and youth. She believes that with a positive established relationship its easier for the youth to listen and communicate with law enforcement.

“We work with them starting in the first grade, so that by the time they are in the sixth grade they are familiar with us,” Cowan said.

PAL was amongst a group of recipients to receive a grant from Ala-Tom RC&D. They were awarded $2,000 to fund their summer program Athletes Creating Arts, where students learned about photography, drawing and painting, according to Cowan.

Toys can also be dropped off at the Selma Police and Fire departments, PAL Center, Selma City Schools, City Hall, Urgent Care, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Green Law Firm, Craig Credit Union and WJAM radio station.