Police officer buys gym membership for trespassing teen

A teen who kept sneaking into a gym to play ball didn’t get arrested — he got a free membership. (Photo: Getty Images)

A teen who kept sneaking into a sports center to play basketball was gifted a gym membership by a police officer.

Almost every day in August, 15-year-old Vincent would sneak into XSport Fitness in Skokie, Ill., bypassing the front desk and hiding in the bathroom, the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday. The teen, who is a nationally ranked basketball player, only wanted to shoot hoops on the facility’s basketball court, but he didn’t have a membership.


'I just want to play basketball': Skokie cop pays for teen's gym membership after responding to trespassing call http://nbcchi.com/YhOjpHU

Posted by NBC Chicago on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

“Every few days, we’d catch him in the court; he was always there,” general manager Jesse Silva tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He’s a good kid, but since he’s underage, he was a liability. We explained that to him and he was polite, but it kept happening.”

After about a week of incidents, Silva spoke to operations manager Justin Pritchett, who called the police. “We didn’t want Vincent arrested, but we wanted him to take this seriously,” says Silva.

But when Officer Mario Valenti from the Skokie Police Department arrived on the scene, he offered a different solution. “He said, ‘I’d like to know how much a gym membership is — if I give you $150, would that cover it?’”

After learning that his donation would only cover a three-month membership,  Pritchett called XSport’s corporate headquarters, which agreed to kick in $718. Combined with Valenti’s offer, that would cover a two-year membership for Vincent.

“Vincent was surprised — he kept thanking the officer over and over again,” says Silva.

A representative from the Skokie Police Department did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

But Valenti told the Chicago Tribune, “At the end of the day, it’s not about gratitude. 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.”

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