Last week, Police Athletics wrapped up their baseball season. Sunday, it was soccer’s turn.
The coaches and kids said that P.A.C.E. makes a difference for them.
“You know instantaneously when you’re on the street that you’re making a difference,” said Detective Antonio Espejo with the Omaha Police Department’s gang unit.
Over 10 years ago, Detective Espejo founded P.A.C.E. to give at-risk kids a positive activity with the Omaha Police.
“We gotta get those officers that work that area to participate in P.A.C.E., and they can get familiar with the kids,” said Det. Espejo.
They program has grown to 139 soccer teams with over 2000 kids in the greater Omaha area.
“For the kids, you change their life. I really love when I see them walking down the street, and they say, ‘Hey coach thanks for letting me play,’” said Geovanny Salgado.
Salgado started as a player when he was 13. Now, he’s the director of P.A.C.E.’s soccer program.
“We try to help the community. That’s the best way to do it. They help you, you give them something back,” said Salgado.
“In my neighborhood, I see a lot of violence, and there are kids getting into the gangs,” said Nancy Cruz, 17.
Two years ago, Nancy reached out to Detective Espejo for help. She now has a team all her own for her little brother to play in.
“Now we go out, and it’s like ‘Oh, soccer! Hey, buddy!.’ And the parents, too. They’re all coming together to help the kids. It’s really amazing to see a community coming together,” said Nancy.
Today, at their year-end tournament, not every team wins, but every kid gets a medal.
“I think it’s really helpful for the community. You don’t have to stay home and do nothing,” said Lily Nino, 10.
P.A.C.E.’s soccer program has now expanded to include a girls-only workshop, a mini league for 4 to 5 year olds, and even adult teams. More information can be found at www.paceomaha.org.