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Champions of Albany PAL honored

March 14, 2019 05:44 PM

COLONIE – Depending on your perspective, we're either several months before or several months past the annual Capital Holiday Lights in the Park, the annual fundraiser for Albany's Police Athletic League. Either way, that helps support so many programs. At the Albany Marriott on Thursday morning, supporters and graduates were honored with "Cop and a Kid" trophies.

"It's external validation for all the hard work I've done," said Nate Burke, who joined PAL at age 13. He is now 29 and a Ph.D. candidate studying economics at the University of Arkansas. "PAL was a huge part of me growing up."

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Burke was among four honorees along with Paula Stopera of Capital Communications Federal Credit Union, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and David Bauer, PAL's third ever board chairman. Business leaders from around the region attended Breakfast of Champions.

"The officers are getting as much out of the relationships that are being developed as the youth are," said PAL Executive Director Lenny Ricchiuti. "And that's very important. It helps them in their career, it helps them in their policing, it helps them in their home life, it helps them in their community environment."

First-year Siena men's basketball coach Jamion Christian was the keynote speaker: "Real programming involves creating an environment that allows a person to become everything that they can become. That's what a real program does." WNYT's Rodger Wyland returned as emcee.

However, it was messages by PAL Alumni Joe Filomeno and Burke that resonated for so many.

"As a kid, I developed really late, I was having a rough time in school," Burke said. "As a child, I spent most of my time in Brooklyn with my grandmother and so transitioning, coming up here and everything was really hard for me, I didn't really have anywhere I fit in."

He said one day officer Kelly Kimbrough rolled up in a police car and asked him if he needed a ride. That changed his life, Burke said.

"That's when everything changed for me and I found a much better group of people, mentors to actually guide me," Burke said. "And that's when I switched from not really having direction to knowing that, OK, I don't know exactly what I want to do but I want to do something that's going to help benefit my community."

Burke created PAL's track program and went to Manhattan College on a scholarship. Then, he earned his Masters from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and now is at the University of Arkansas.

"I went to Alaska and Arkansas just because of him," said Burke's mother Iris Osorio. "Alaska's beautiful, Arkansas' very hot."

And Burke's message: "Kids should be our entire investment…I think sometimes we as adults now forget that everything we're doing is just setting the stage for tomorrow's generation. So above all, we have to make sure the kids come first."

Credits

WNYT Staff

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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