BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A Chicago teenager has a brand new gym membership thanks to the police officer who chose not to arrest him for trespassing. The 15-year-old boy had been repeatedly caught sneaking into a fitness center so he could play basketball with his friends.
According to a report from CBS Chicago, workers at X-Sport Fitness in the Chicago suburb of Skokie called police on the teen in late August after warning him not to sneak into the basketball courts again.
“We said look man, we don’t want him in trouble,” Justin Pritchett, Operations Manager at the X-Sport Fitness told CBS Chicago about the moment a local police officer arrived on the scene. “He is a minor. We just kind of want to spook him.”
Luckily for the teen, identified only by his first name, Vincent, the responding officer was Mario Valenti, a 23-year veteran of the force who decided to lend a helping hand to the boy instead of reprimanding him, or worse.
“Mr. Valenti is looking at this kid and I can just see a light bulb go on and he’s thinking, what can we do to help this kid out?,” Pritchett added.
It was then that Valenti decided to help the boy out by offering to pay for the teen’s new membership.
Valenti gave the fitness center $150 of his own money that reportedly would buy the teen three to four months of time on the court with his friends. X-Sport’s corporate office was so moved by the officer’s gesture that they increased the value of the boy’s membership to a full two years. The normal cost of the two-year package is over $700.
“He’s unbelievably grateful. You could just see it in his face looking at the officer,” Pritchett said.
The teen is also reportedly a talented basketball player who has garnered interest nationally due to his play in high school.
“One of the top-rated youth prospects in the state of Illinois,” Pritchett said.
Now, thanks to the kindness of strangers, Vincent can hit the hardwood whenever he likes for the foreseeable future and focus on taking his game to the next level.