More than 500 'PALS' attend free 5-week camp at Purdue

June 22, 2015  

2015 PALS marshall

Purdue football player Bilal Marshall, wide receiver, cheers PALS campers in a tug-o-war at the 2014 Purdue Athletes Life Success program. This year's program runs through July 10, and more than 500 youth will learn about fitness, sports, healthy eating and financial literacy. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The 14th Purdue Athletes Life Success program will help keep more than 500 area youth, ages 8-14, active, while also teaching them about healthy eating, financial literacy and positive life skills through July 10.

The program, which started in 2002, has served more than 3,000 area youth. Campers qualify for the free program based on income guidelines. This year's program began June 11.

"This program is packed with activities, and no matter the topic, our four character pillars – respect, responsibility, courage and caring – are a part of each lesson," said Bill Harper, PALS co-director and professor of health and kinesiology. "The past nine years, we've tracked how participation in PALS affects these children, and the research shows that campers sees a boost in self-esteem and more interest in physical activity. Also important is that the campers are significantly influenced by their camp counselors."

Each age group is led by team leaders who are current or recent college students, many of these team leaders are Purdue NCAA athletes or are involved in club sports. Many of this year's team leaders are former campers themselves, and 12 recent campers were selected to serve as junior team leaders.

2015 PALS astronauts

Astronauts and Purdue alumni Jerry Ross and Eugene Cernan visited the 2015 Purdue's PALS program on Friday (June 19) as guests of Purdue Federal Credit Union, which is a supporter of the program that serves more than 500 area youth. (Purdue University photo/Matt Thomas) 
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The campers spend time at various stations - strategically spaced so campers walk more than an hour a day - to learn about other sports, such as soccer, judo, flag football, basketball, swimming, and outdoor active team-building games. Other stations include art, dance and computers. Purdue Federal Credit Union also offers a financial literacy program, and pet therapy dogs also visit the camp thanks to the Lafayette chapter of Therapy Dog International.

On Wednesday (June 24), the Purdue football team will offer a football clinic, and Colts in Motion also will visit PALS. Colts in Motion is a 42-foot-long traveling museum full of interactive Colts history and memorabilia.

Also new to the program this year is a pilot program studying how the program can be adapted to an after-school year-round program. That study is led by Renee McKee, program leader for 4-H and youth development in the College of Agriculture. Also collaborating on the project are Frank Snyder, an assistant professor in health and kinesiology, and Meghan McDonough, an associate professor in health and kinesiology.

The College of Health and Human Sciences and previously the College of Liberal Arts have been longtime supporters of PALS. The program also is supported by many community and campus organizations, including the Division of Recreational Sports, which provides the fields, pool and other areas for activity stations, and Housing and Food Services, where the campers eat breakfast and lunch every day. Doctors and nurse practitioners from Purdue University Student Health Center Unity Healthcare and IU Arnett provided free medical exams to all campers in April. The exams include general physical health, vision, orthopedics and blood pressure.

Program funding comes partially from Purdue Federal Credit Union and the Brees Dream Foundation. Drew Brees is the former All-America quarterback for Purdue and 2010 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. PALS also received financial support from the Purdue Boilermaker Half-Marathon and 5K. This year's race on Oct. 17 will support PALS again, and more information is available at

PALS also partners with the three local school corporations - Lafayette, Tippecanoe County and West Lafayette - as well as Ivy Tech Community College, the Tippecanoe Prosecutor's Office, Juvenile Magistrate Court, Area IV Agency, Indiana Department of Education, Project Safe Neighborhood and Wabash Valley Alliance. 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Sources: Bill Harper,

Bonnie Blankenship, 

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