By Autumn Garrett
The Police Athletic League (PAL) of Kansas City debuted new pickleball courts on Wednesday, Nov. 10, thanks to a fundraising effort totaling $70,000 in memory of supporter Angelo Fiataruolo.
The Police Athletic League (PAL) of Kansas City offers fun, interactive programs for youth and Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) officers. PAL’s mission is rooted in the belief that all youth deserve the opportunity to expand their horizons and realize their full potential by offering a wide range of activities that build kids’ confidence and motivation, and offers a positive role model.
Fiataruolo and his girlfriend Salli Katz fell in love with PAL about five years ago after touring the facility and seeing what the league offers the children and community. Fiataruolo could relate to the kids at PAL, the leagues reminding him of his own childhood.
Fiataruolo contracted COVID-19, and died alone in a hospital. However, before he passed away, he told Katz his final wish was that she “do something special for PAL.” Katz and friend Scott Loewen led a $70,000 fundraising effort to support PAL through personal donations and corporate partnerships in honor of Fiataruolo.
“You came here today and you learned something about this organization,” Katz told the friends, neighbors and kids at the opening of the courts. “This is the real deal. The officers here care deeply about a kid’s future here and you’ve heard them say that, and there’s no ego. It’s so refreshing. They mean what they say.”
Katz shared her love for the program and what the league does. During the debut, Katz expressed how alive the building is and how the league and kids are hard to forget once you get to know them.
“This building is not only brick and mortar, it is not,” Katz said. “This building has a beating heart. It has a heart that comes from you and from all the officers that come here. If you drive into this driveway, and you park your car, you might see something rocking and if nothing else you’ll hear beating. This is a board full of volunteers that is all about the kids knowing how to live in a society that dealt them a tough blow.”
Katz and Fiataruolo loved playing pickleball, so Katz and her friends began raising money to build two pickleball courts for PAL. Starting November 10, the two courts are officially open to the youth at the PAL Center at 18th & White Avenue.
“I have cried together with Scott over every donation,” Katz said. “We cried for many reasons of joy and love for this organization that we actually, in 52 days, raised the money to build two courts. In my lifetime, I never would have believed it and I still think I’m so naive that I thought I could do it.”
Every Sunday, their family cheered Katz on – her daughter has family time every Sunday since Fiataruolo passed away – and they’ve talked, laughed and cried.
“And then we were building pickleball courts and we had to talk about that every Sunday, and they had to listen and keep cheering me on and on,” Katz said. “We needed every word, every arm around our shoulder.”
This year, the company where Loewen works, C2FO, came up with a diversity and inclusion program to do something for the community.
“Our company donates a lot of time and money, and that really inspired me to want to do something more this year,” Loewen said. “I don’t think it was a coincidence that Salli asked me to be part of this program because it really was in line with me wanting to make a meaningful impact in the community.”
Katz and Loewen met seven months ago, and formed what will be a lifelong friendship, Loewen said.
“I consider her family, so thank you to everyone who’s been involved,” Loewen said. “I want to give a special shout out to Joe Ratterman. He was one of our first advisors and helped us figure out how to do this, and there were countless other foundations and individuals that really made this come together.”
During the debut, everybody toured the facility that Katz and Fiataruolo fell in love with. While officially opening the courts, PAL presented a plaque honoring Angelo Fiataruolo and two benches – one honoring Fiataruolo and another for Katz.
After cutting the ribbon to the pickleball courts, the kids and supporters of the project spent the evening playing pickleball together. Pickleball is a paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis and tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, much like a whiffle ball, over a net.
More info about the Police Athletic League and what they do can be found at www.kcpal.org or by calling 816-413-3621.