A month after Dolphins players Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Michael Thomas met with members of the North Miami Police Department, the organization has announced it will help sponsor programs associated with the Police Athletic League (PAL) of North Miami.
"When we met with the North Miami Police Department, they talked about how the Police Athletic League helps them connect with the community," Julius Thomas said. "Talking with officers and hearing some of the difficulties they have connecting with the kids and getting the kids to interact with them in positive ways and not always when they're going to face some sort of discipline and how beneficial they believe that was for their community and the Police Athletic League, it's really centered around helping youth. They talked about the earlier the better. They like to get kids to get into the PAL program before high school so they're able to really influence them and help steer them away from some of the influences that are going to steer them into positions where they're going to have to deal with the police in less positive ways. I think the Dolphins definitely did a good thing by helping support that organization."
The Oct. 10 meeting involving the Miami Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the three players and members of the North Miami PD featured conversations about community policing and engagement, resulted in the creation of a partnership through funding of PAL of North Miami program and additional ride-along events.
"To have the Police Athletic League reaching out in their communities and doing everything they can to show the kids what kind of people they are ... they have a job to do, of course, but outside of that these are people that care about their community and they want to do what they can to prevent having to arrest someone or discipline someone in any way," Julius Thomas said. "To get that opportunity and have those kids to have a different influence that they otherwise would have had is really important. I really commend the North Miami Police Department for reaching out and doing that for their community."
The Dolphins invited officials and members of the North Miami Police Athletic League to the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Saturday to watch practice and meet players.
The group also got a tour of the facility.
"We're extremely thankful for and humbled by the generosity of the Dolphins," said Larry Juriga, Interim Chief of the North Miami Police Department and Executive Director of the North Miami PAL. "The money is going to make a positive impact on so many of the lives of the kids in North Miami through our different programs, whether it's athletic programs or our educational programs. Additionally, the commitment of the Dolphins is just as important as the money because they come out, the players stand side by side with us. The staff stand side by side with law enforcement and the kids see that, that we're partnering together to make the community better."
The North Miami PAL includes athletic and educational programs such as boxing, basketball, track and field, tutoring, powerlifting, Youth Development Council, and Jr. Cadets. The organization's mission statement is to "cultivate partnerships between parents, schools, the community and the police department to produce active leaders."
One of the participants in the North Miami PAL program is boxer Jeremiah Dorleans, a youth who showed off his public-speaking skills in the Dolphins media workroom Saturday.
"I think North Miami PAL is a great way to get kids out of the street and make them better as teenagers and as they grow to adults," said Dorleans, who was proudly wearing a medal he earned for winning the Fort Pierce PAL boxing championship in the 110-pound division. "Boxing is a good way to go out of town, have fun, meet friends and come back with a win."
Players, along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Miami Dolphins President & CEO Tom Garfinkel, NFL and Dolphins staff joined members of the North Miami PD and BSO to show support and take part in a ride along.
The PAL of North Miami sponsorship is a part of a yearly fund for advocacy and social justice programs created by Stephen Ross and Miami Dolphins players. During the 2017-18 season, the team will create a social justice grant program; the Project Change Scholarship, the details of which were announced Friday; and host a police and youth conference in conjunction with the 5000 Role Models Excellence Project.
Julius Thomas said he appreciated the level of community involvement shown by Ross.
"At the end of the day, (team owners') influence is so great and to have a team invest in its community and trying to tackle some of the issues this community is facing shows it's more than just about football," Julius Thomas said. "No matter what status an owner has reached in their life, to still remember and understand that there are ways to help the community they're a part of, I think it's really important and Mr. Ross did a great thing by donating to some various organizations, including the PAL."