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The Star-Ledger

Athletes Bat, Box And Learn At Games


2 June 2005
Copyright © 2005 The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

You would probably see a large show of hands if someone asked who would be interested in taking a weekend trip to Puerto Rico. For a group of lucky Newark youngsters, it was their skills - and a little help from a local councilman - that made such a trip possible.

Through the efforts of the Newark Three Kings organization, a nonprofit community group, some 27 youngsters comprised a team of boxers and baseball players who traveled to the island to compete in the Law Enforcement Olympics.

The youngsters, who were feted recently in the rotunda of Newark City Hall, left on a Wednesday evening and returned Sunday, proud that they were among the first group of young athletes invited to participate in the games.

According to Councilman-at-large Luis A. Quintana, founder of the Three Kings, the kids came from all parts of the city and took part in boxing and baseball tournaments. The baseball players were from the Roberto Clemente Little League, which has been working with kids for more than 30 years, and the boxers belonged to the Georgia King Boxing Team, which encourages sports as an alternative to drugs and gangs.

Quintana noted that the significance of the trip goes beyond athletics.

"Not only did these kids get to compete in the sports they love at a high level," he said, but "the opportunity they had to travel and experience a different culture, even as they came together and developed as a team, was surely a great experience."

The opportunity "to compete, develop people skills, encourage teamwork and make new friends" was a positive endeavor, said the councilman, who traveled ahead of the group and was on hand to greet them when they arrived.

According to the participants, it was a trip they wouldn't have missed for the world, and they are grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the competition.

Linwood Hurd, one of the members of the boxing team, said he enjoyed the trip, and was "glad to have been selected. I thank everyone who took part in the trip. We were treated very well."

Fifteen-year-old Sharif Wyman said the trip was "a great experience for me and I would like to say for the whole team. Puerto Rico is an experience that has truly inspired me and that I will never forget."

Quintana said the trip came about after he had spoken with a friend from the Puerto Rico police, and they agreed that while there is a healthy exchange between the city's department and the law enforcement officers on the island, "the one thing missing (from the competitions) is the kids."

The councilman said the offer was originally extended to a Police Athletic League, but since Newark doesn't have a PAL that really functions, he came up with the idea of getting other organized groups to participate.

The boxing team was accompanied by Juana Edmond, one of the promoters of the program, while the baseball team traveled with Luis Lopez.

He said his organization began sending letters and raising money from different sources to help make the trip possible. Once that was worked out, the trip was on - with the kids returning on a Sunday night in time to go to school the next day.

Quintana stressed that the trip came about at no taxpayer expense, adding that his campaign fund paid for his ticket, while donations were used to pay for the plane fare and accommodations of the youngsters.

"I stress this is not taxpayer money. This is hard money that came the hard way - calling people on the phone, begging. I'll beg for kids. I'm not a politician when it comes to children," the councilman said.

In addition to the Three Kings organization, Quintana said funding came from corporations, outside organizations, store owners and general folks.

The beneficiaries were the youngsters who got what may have been a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Puerto Rico to compete and show off their skills, as well as represent the city of Newark.

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