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It's time to bring back the principles of the old CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) - We'll call it the PAL (Police Athletic League of Illinois) 

A new youth anti-violence initiative for the Chicagoland

area was announced at a press conference on

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali’s daughter and PAL Program

Director Rasheda Ali and the Illinois State Crime

Commission/Police Athletic League of Illinois unveiled a new

boxing initiative to combat violence throughout the Chicagoland

area. The ISCC/PAL detailed the program where law

enforcement officials, police officers and firefighters will be

training alongside of and mentoring PAL boxers at inner city

Police Athletic League affiliated gyms.

Surprising new anti-violence initiative launches in Chicago

Following is article by Medill
January 17, 2013

Can learning to punch someone reduce violence in Chicago?

The Illinois State Crime Commission and the Police Athletic League think so and are introducing a new youth anti-violence initiative: learning to box.

The sport is intended to serve as a gateway to get junior high and high school kids off the streets. PAL boxing programs exist nationwide, but this is the first one in Illinois.

“Boxing is a hook, a draw to get you in the program,” said John Bitoy, PAL Boxing Gym Liaison. Bitoy has also been involved with the West Englewood Boxing Club for more than a decade. Throughout that time, Bitoy said he has buried seven kids from the area who died violently.

For reasons like that, others jumped at the opportunity to participate, including police officers, firefighters and PAL program media director, Rasheda Ali, daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Rasheda said she is committed to helping PAL not only to reduce juvenile delinquency, but also to promote recreational athletics.

Rasheda’s father got his start in a Police Athletic League in Kentucky when he was 12 and his bicycle was stolen. The police officer he told about the theft simply told him if he wanted his bike back he needed to learn to box.

His daughter got involved for an additional reason.


Years ago, one of her first cousins was gunned down outside of his home. While some families are able to move to safer neighborhoods, not everyone can. For that reason, Rasheda said, something has to be done.

“If I can save at least one child from being gunned down in front of their home, then the work we are doing here today is worth it,” said Rasheda. “I said yes because of my cousin.”

Some still might wonder, why boxing? Why build an anti-violence program around a controversial sport?

This is “a fight we can’t afford to lose,” said Jerry Elsner, the executive director of the Illinois Crime Commission. “Our children are dying. We have to get them in the gym and, most of all, we have to give them hope.”

Boxing is a state of mind, a retired boxer at the presentation said. With the training and mentoring of law enforcement officials, firefighters and PAL boxers, kids will learn to recognize their ability to overcome difficulties.

The Chicago Park District has 17 gyms to practice in, with plans to increase to 20. Several boxing clubs, including the McGarry, Celtic and West Englewood clubs, are affiliated with the program.

With approximately 400 kids involved, PAL Boxing Director Mike Joyce said he has plans to expand.

The first ISCC/PAL Boxing Gala is scheduled for May 6 at the Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney. The event will recognize participants and coaches as well as attempt to get sponsors. Supporters will enable the program to further develop as well as offer qualified PAL participants internships, scholarships and apprenticeships.

©2001 – 2013 Medill Reports – Chicago, Northwestern University. A publication of the Medill School.

The Catholic Youth Organization was founded by Bishop Sheil in the early 1900’s

Bernard J. Sheil 1888-1969.

Bishop Bernard Sheil never became an archbishop, but he did become something possibly greater – one of the most loved and respected Christian leaders in the United States. Bishop Sheil was founder of the Catholic Youth Organization establishing annual boxing tournaments that appealed to thousands of working class youths, representing all ethnic groups. He eventually produced an international traveling team and a number of boxing Olympians. All participants received free instruction, equipment and medical care with winners receiving a college education. The great success of the boxing program led to more athletic programs and social agencies. He founded Sheil House, a settlement in the African American community and similar neighborhood centers for Italians, Puerto Ricans, and Navajo Indians. Through all of Bishop Sheil’s social activism ran a deep commitment to interracial justice.

May 11, 1953 Time Magazine.

[At a dinner honoring Bishop Sheil] Father William Bergin was there. Tipperary-born Father Bergin, 86, could easily remember young Benny Sheil, his pupil at St. Viator College in Bourbonnais, Ill. who pitched a no-hitter for St. Viator against the University of Illinois. (“I had a terrifying amount of speed,” says Bishop Sheil, thinking back.) Benny Sheil turned down offers to try out with both the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox before he went back to study for the priesthood.

As a young priest, Father Sheil served part-time as a chaplain at the Cook County jail. He walked many a doomed man to the execution chamber, and once a “mad-dog killer” said to him near the end: “Father, why do they wait until now before they start to care?” Later, when Father Sheil was consecrated a bishop at 40, he tried to answer the condemned man’s challenge.

With his own inheritance from his father and $10,000 from Utility Man Budd, Sheil set out to lure off the streets young potential gangsters-white and Negro, Protestant, Catholic and Jew-with a social and athletic program that kept moralizing to a minimum. Boxing was the major attraction. When some high-minded people clucked at the stress on boxing, Bishop Sheil’s reply was: “Show me how you can inspire boys away from the brothels and saloons with a checker tournament and I’ll put on the biggest checker tournament you ever saw.”

A Jewish sociologist and an Irish playground director were the bishop’s right and left hands in the late 30’s when he set out to fight Communism among the tough, discontented unemployed of Chicago’s stockyards. The Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council brought democracy and self-respect into an explosive situation. The packers, who at first did not like the unionization that went with it, learned to be grateful for the bishop’s work.

Bishop Sheil made himself just as unpopular with fringers on the right as with those on the left. At one forum on Christian-Jewish relations he was viciously heckled by a delegation of Christian Fronters, and a virago pushed her way towards him as he was leaving. “I’m a Catholic!” she screamed. “You’re not a Catholic-you’re a nigger-lover and a Jew-lover. You call yourself a bishop. You’re not a bishop, you’re a rabbi.” And she spat in his face.

Bishop Sheil did not move a muscle. “I thank you. madam, for the compliment of your action and your words.” he said calmly. “Rabbi? That is what they called our Lord.”

More than 2,300 people came to dinner. Their tables overflowed the Palmer House grand ballroom into the foyer, into the halls, almost into the elevators. There was a cake 15 ft. high which Bishop Sheil had to cut standing above it on the balcony. There was a main course of the bishop’s beloved corned beef & cabbage, and over & over the band played his favorite tune, MacNamara’s Band. At the head table sat Theologian Jacques Maritain and Labor Leaders John L. Lewis and James B. Carey, Illinois’ Governor William G. Stratton and Capitalist Marshall Field. Chicago’s Episcopal Bishop Wallace Conkling gave the benediction and Rabbi Louis Binstock of Temple Sholom asked God’s blessing on Bishop Sheil in Hebrew. A check for $131,582 was presented to the bishop for his various funds, and 26 separate awards, each with appropriate words of praise, kept coming until midnight.

In the midst of the depression, the Most Rev. Bernard James Sheil accepted “as a great privilege” the invitation of John L. Lewis to appear on C.I.O. platform in the stockyard district. “I want you to remember, Your Excellency,” said the banker, a Catholic layman, “that the minute you step on that platform, you lose your chance to become archbishop.” For a moment, the stubby little prelate just looked at him. “You should know,” he said after a while, “that I wasn’t ordained a Catholic priest in order to become an archbishop.”

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