The Richmond Strikers/Henrico PAL soccer camp is Positively Richmond

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It’s the blue team against the orange team, and on this field Janiya Harmon is playing soccer for the first time.

“Some of this stuff other kids don’t get to do, and I’m getting to do it and it’s actually very fun,” she says.

The 13-year-old is one of about 350 campers of all ages at the special program put on by the Richmond Strikers and the Henrico Police Athletic League (PAL).

Camp director Carlos Martinoli has seen the effort between the two non-profits grow over the years.

“It’s not about making money,” Martinoli says. “It’s about to create a space for the kids and the environment in which they can interact with all the kids.”

Strikers staff coaches and youth players along with Henrico Police officers aims to help the kids grow as people off the field too.

“The sports [are] just the vehicle we use to teach other kinds of lessons,” explains Lowell Thomas, a site manager with Henrico PAL. “Having them along with the police officers, that’s a very invaluable [lesson] that they learn. It gives them some time for mentoring one-on-one with the police officers, as well.”

Jay Howell, the Richmond Strikers Executive Director, lists other focus areas.

“Being part of a team and dealing with adversity, dealing with success, working towards something, working as a group, working in small groups within a larger group,” he says.

Joining some soccer leagues in the area cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, which often leaves children from low-income families sitting on the sidelines.

However, Martinoli says this camp aims to make soccer accessible to children whose families may not otherwise have the means.

“The kids are happy and that’s what this is all about,” he says. “If one kid starts playing soccer after this camp, it’s a very positive thing.”

According to its website, the Richmond Strikers is “a non-profit organization committed to providing the Greater Richmond area with an effective, dynamic and progressive soccer club” which is “devoted to providing a developmentally appropriate structure for thousands of children ages 4-18 to experience the game of soccer at every level.”

Henrico PAL, which is in its tenth year, says it operates under the mission to “provide a high quality and safe environment for at risk youth in grades K-12 through educational, athletic and social programs, while creating a positive relationship between police officers and youth.”

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