Westport PAL: A Friend To Youth

A Staples High School graduate received a Westport PAL scholarship. Now he’s applying for another.

That’s not unusual. Since 1948, the non-profit has helped local kids in countless ways.

What is unusual is the letter the young man sent. It’s appreciative, insightful, and spot on.

It deserves to be read by many people — not just as an example of how to write a good scholarship application letter, but to shine a light on the work this important organization does every day, often under the radar.

Thank you for the opportunity to apply for the PAL Ellis Scholarship.

PAL represents the best of what local youth programs should be about. I have noted many changes in the universe of youth sports since the days when I played PAL sports.

There seems to be so much pressure on parents and children nowadays to get into the most prestigious clubs for their respective sport, no matter the cost. As a result, I see and hear about many children who feel burnout early on because these profit-first systems seem to forget that youth sports are about community and fun.

These highly paid coaches and sponsored teams may be able to provide world-class coaching an hour away at the price of a new car, but they cannot do what PAL has done for young Westporters like me: make kids fall in love with their

PAL has always been a huge part of my life. My father played PAL football, and still talks about the wonderful coaches and friends he made to this day.

As soon as I was old enough, I signed up for football in the 3rd grade. Despite being the smallest player on the team and never getting a single touchdown, I was encouraged, welcomed, and treated like I belonged.

When the football season ended, signing up for PAL wrestling was an easy decision, and perhaps one of the best in my life.

I first met Coach Chacho in the Coleytown gym as an elementary schooler. At that time, I had no idea there even was a Wrestling Hall of Fame, much less that Coach Chacho was in it.

John Chacho, longtime Westport PAL wrestling coach.

But he lit the spark in me that still burns bright today. I think about him and his PAL program all the time. Coach Chacho taught us about pride and what was possible with hard work — all the same things I felt with PAL football.

I’ve been fortunate to find success with wrestling, and have attended many amazing camps and clinics. While the technical coaching is great, it’s just not the  same as what the neighborhood volunteer coaches gave me when I first started with PAL.

PAL remained present throughout my high school days, as a huge sponsor of the
wrestling team, even donating our competition mat and supporting the young kids who came in twice a week to practice at Staples. I also got to see my younger brothers follow the same PAL path that I did. I’ve watched these programs have the same impact on them as they had on me.

I am so grateful for the PAL scholarship I was awarded my senior year. I made a promise in my first thank-you letter to honor the organization that gave me so much for so many years. I am constantly working hard every day to keep my promise.

Today I am a sophomore in college, and still thrilled to be wrestling. I am majoring in music and physics (and will likely stay a fifth year for my master’s in that), with a minor in integrated design, engineering and applied sciences. If I am fortunate enough to be selected for the Ellis scholarship, I promise to continue to do everything I can to reflect positively on PAL, and hopefully be able to continue to be associated with the program long after I graduate.

4 responses to “Westport PAL: A Friend To Youth

  1. So wonderful to hear from a young person with such a refreshing perspective on life… He deserves all the success in the world .. and the scholarship

  2. Great inspirational story!

  3. Great essay and great perspective.
    And an amazing tribute to PAL, wrestling, and Coach Chacho.
    I have written it on this board many times before…
    I would not be where I am today if not for my parents, several amazing teachers, and my wrestling coaches, especially my first coach, John Chacho.

  4. Dan – as you know, I the opportunity to play for you and other great soccer coaches like Dennis Murphy and Tim Hunter in the Westport PAL travel soccer program (now part of Westport Soccer Association). Incredible lineup of coaches! From eight years old through high school, I had the pleasure of playing very high level soccer (CT and New England Championships) with my best friends and future Staples teammates. Almost all of that Staples class went on to play soccer in college. Combining the emotional feelings of playing for your town with your school friends and having world class coaching that guided us to exceptional success was a defining experience that has positively effected throughout my life. Given the multi-billion dollar youth sports industry we have today, this is almost impossible to replicate. That is one of the reasons this 06880 post made me so happy.

    I also had the pleasure of Coach Chacho teaching me wrestling, coaching our soccer and track teams and being a great PE teacher at Bedford Junior High School. It was awesome to play against my PAL teammates who went to Coleytown and Long Lots junior high schools. Those programs are gone now but the memory of those matchups live in each of us. My kids also had Coach Chacho when he took over the PE programs in their pre-K programs. I nearly fell off my chair when my son was talking about Coach Chacho at the dinner table. It made the parent nights even more enjoyable!

    I really appreciated the PAL scholarship recipient’s comments about how the PAL Football program continued to encourage his engagement in the sport regardless of his current ability or stature. That is such a huge component of healthy youth sports programs. Like so many, Coach Chacho made an enduring, positive impact on his life. The essayist is a great tribute to the work of Coach Chacho and Westport PAL. Congratulations to all!

    Thanks so much for sharing Dan.