A teenager thought he was in trouble when he was caught repeatedly sneaking into a gym in a Chicago suburb. But one police officer came up with a solution—a solution that reportedly changed the boy’s opinion of the police.
Staff at the XSport Fitness health club in Skokie noticed the teen, Vincent Gonzales, was sneaking onto the basketball court without a membership. Even the day after being warned by staff, he came back.
“He had had a membership, but his mother could not afford to pay for it anymore and it expired,” XSport Fitness Operations Manager Justin Pritchett told the Chicago Tribune. “All he wanted to do was play basketball.”
The staff decided to contact the police about the teenager’s trespassing.
To everyone’s surprise, police officer Mario Valenti chose to offer $150 of his own money so the Gonzales could extend his membership and play basketball.
His generous act caught on. Moved by the officer’s kind deed, staff at XSport Fitness decided to put the $150 towards a two-year membership to the health club. The total cost for this was $718 and XSport said they would pay the remainder.
“All of our entrances and exits are blocked. And sure enough, he would just show up on the basketball court. He just wanted to play ball,” Pritchett said, according to ABC 13.
He added, “For the officer to respond the way he did and turn a negative situation into an unbelievably positive situation, that’s just fantastic.”
Gonzales had even hidden in the bathroom stall so that he could go and play basketball with his friends, Pritchett said.
“I thought it was really nice. I texted him and I said ‘Thank you.’ That meant a lot,” Gonzales told the news outlet.
In a Facebook post, Skokie Police Department praised Valenti’s kind solution to the trespassing teen.
“XSport corporate officials were so impressed with Officer Valenti’s slam dunk that they rebounded with a financial contribution of their own and added another year of complimentary club membership for the young playmaker.
“Thanks to Officer Valenti’s creative approach, the boy has netted a safe place to play with a fully paid two-year membership and no risk of fouling out.
— Leo Sisneros (@LeoSisneros) October 16, 2017
They said the boy was rumored to be one of the top Illinois highschool basketball prospects.
“Most of us took this job to help people, not to hurt them. The job can be negative. For the most part, the job is dealing with good people having a very bad day so you’re not seeing the best side of people,” Valenti said.
“I’d rather have him playing ball than being on the street and possibly getting into trouble,” Valenti said to the Chicago Tribune. He added that “doing a good thing can be contagious.”