PAL Today… Leader for Life
In the 1960s, Norm Demers was a young street cop patrolling Jacksonville’s high-crime neighborhoods. His day consisted of investigating calls involving domestic violence, burglaries, gangs, and drug dealers. Every day he saw young people gathered in alleys and on street corners. They seemed to have nothing better to do. Norm knew the probability was great that he would one day be arresting these kids for delinquent behavior. He felt he had to do something — and he had an idea.
Officer Demers personally purchased baseballs, bats, and gloves and went to a neighborhood park to hand out the sports equipment from the trunk of his car. In that moment, he found a way to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children, and he founded a Jacksonville tradition.
As more police officers answered the call to help children, JaxPAL was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit youth-serving organization in 1972 and opened its first center in 1974 on McDuff Avenue. Since then, through the generous support of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, community partners, volunteers, and other government agencies, JaxPAL has experienced substantial growth. Today it operates programs in six locations throughout the city, serving more than 2,600 children and their families every year.