The Police Activity League boxing gym in Freeport is gearing up to celebrate its 30th anniversary later this month.
Founded by the late police officer and original Freeport PAL Executive Director Jack Lundergan in 1992, the gym has become a pillar of the community, producing numerous champions and instilling discipline and values in its members.
“The first thing you have to recognize is that police officer Jack Lundergan was the police officer that came up with the idea of starting the Freeport PAL,” Coach Joe Higgins said. “He was the one, of course, that recruited me to come in as the boxing director and the president. So, first and foremost, we have to mention Jack Lundergan. If not for him, there is no Freeport PAL.”
Higgins played a pivotal role in the gym’s evolution. Born in Brooklyn in 1961, Higgins had a lifelong passion for boxing that persisted through his amateur fighting days and his time as a New York City firefighter. Later, he discovered his true calling, joining a boxing gym in Freeport that could positively impact the lives of young people.
Over the past three decades, Higgins and his team have produced more than 100 amateur champions, including five national champions. However, the Freeport gym is more than just a place to train — it’s a beacon of hope for kids in troubled areas.
Higgins’ mission is simple: help kids become successful in life, not just in the ring.
The gym’s focus is not just on boxing. It is also an after-school and after-work program that helps young people become productive members of society.
“With the amount of kids that have gone through this program over that period, they become very responsible and productive adults,” Higgins said.
The gym provides a positive outlet for kids and helps them stay away from negative activities. Higgins and his team of coaches are tough on their students, but they always finish on a positive note. Every kid who walks through the door feels supported and encouraged, regardless of their physical fitness level.
“I love to say this, but when you walk in that door, you’re all equally useless,” Higgins said. “I don’t care who you are, and what background you come from. But I can assure you this. If you stay in that room, within a few months, your whole freakin’ mindset is going to change. We’re going to teach you how to be productive and how to be givers to society.”
The gym also helps students find jobs if they are not interested in going to college. Higgins believes the gym’s focus is not just on boxing, but also about helping kids.
“We come together to create a place like this, where every day is an opportunity to unlock a door without any cost or barrier, making it easy for kids to come in,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
As the 30th-anniversary celebration approaches, the Freeport PAL Boxing Gym stands as a testament to the power of sports in shaping young lives and building stronger communities. It has become a safe haven for countless individuals, instilling in them the values of determination, humility, and respect. The gym’s impact extends far beyond its four walls, making it an enduring symbol of hope and opportunity for the youth of Freeport.
Over the years, the gym has received unwavering support from the local community and beyond. Community members, business owners, and even volunteers from “George to the Rescue” have come together to renovate and upgrade the gym, ensuring it remains a state-of-the-art facility for the next generation of boxers.
The makeover was coordinated by George Oliphant, a Marine veteran and the star of the NBC show “George to the Rescue.” Oliphant and his television team played a hands-on role in shaping the gym’s new look, including upgrading the roof, framing, flooring, and wiring.
They also installed new insulation and renovated the boxing ring. The facility now boasts cutting-edge athletic equipment and modern locker rooms, truly making it a knockout for the boxing community.
Coach Higgins’ approach is not just about creating boxing champions; it’s about molding responsible, disciplined, and respectful individuals who will thrive in life beyond the ring.
“Even in a sport where they’re punching each other, these kids respect each other like it’s no one’s business,” Higgins said.
“That’s the beauty of it. We don’t allow trash talk, we don’t allow any of that, there’s no cursing in my gym, there’s no curse music in my gym. You know, everything is proper.”
A sense of camaraderie permeates the gym, as kids from diverse backgrounds come together with a shared purpose. They push each other to achieve their best, while the coaches guide and inspire them every step of the way.
The impact the gym has had on the lives of countless youth is immeasurable. The gym has become a second home for many, a place where they find not only mentorship and skill development but also a supportive community that believes in their potential.
Looking ahead, Higgins remains committed to the gym’s mission, ensuring that it continues to be a positive force for the next generation while shaping young lives and building a better future for the community of Freeport.
The PAL Boxing Gym in Freeport is reaching out to the community, seeking sponsors to support its mission of empowering young boxers.
The gym is in need of boxing equipment and gear, as well as cleaning supplies such as paper towels and disinfecting wipes.
To lend a helping hand, individuals or organizations interested in sponsoring the gym or donating essential items are encouraged to visit the facility located at 100 Parsons Ave at Bishop O White Park. The gym’s operating hours are Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
By contributing to the Freeport PAL Boxing Gym, sponsors can play a vital role in providing young athletes with the tools and resources they need to excel in the sport, while also fostering a safe and clean environment for all participants.