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April 05, 2012 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-04-05

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Think Detroit PACs opening day last year

Richard Reznik helps keep Detroit kids off the streets and on the diamonds.

Robin Schwartz
JN Contributing Writer


he crack of a bat, not the pop of a
gun is the sound Richard Reznik,
42, of Macomb Township wants
to hear more of in the city of Detroit.
The associate athletic director for Think
Detroit PAL (Police Athletic League) runs
the organization's baseball, softball and
T-ball league involving about 1,400 chil-
dren ages 4-18 and hundreds of coaches,
umpires and volunteers.
Each day, Reznik
starts out with a
45-minute drive into the
city where preparations
are now in full swing for
the upcoming season.
But, what's happening
beyond the baseball
fields where the chil-
dren play is alarming.
It's been an unusually
violent year in Detroit; police report
more than 50 murders since the start of
2012. Many of those crimes involve teen-
agers and young children. In some cases,
police have arrested and charged teenage
shooters. In others,.school-aged children
and even babies have been the innocent
victims of gun violence.
"The number of shootings in Detroit is

at a record pace right now:' Reznik says.
"It's just a shame that every time we turn
on the news it's another kidnapping or
shooting or some violent act in Detroit
— and it's enough already!"
During a recent youth violence preven-
tion program, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
echoed those sentiments.
"Stopping youth violence is about
parents and guardians giving loving
attention to young people Bing said.
"Unfortunately, the sad but real fact is
that when violence affects the innocent
lives of our children and our seniors,
it has gone too far. No Detroiter should
have to live in fear. We can no longer tol-
erate terrorism in our city."
Reznik and his wife, Renee, an English
teacher at the Academy of the Americas
public school in southwest Detroit, are
two people making a difference. Both
teach countless children the skills they
need to get ahead in life. Toeve been
married for more than three years and
have no children of their own.
"My primary goal is to help get kids
off the streets and get them doing some-
thing more productive Reznik says.
"The toughest time for kids to make
good or bad decisions is after school,
from 3-7 p.m. If we can keep them on the
sports field, they're less likely to get into

Oak Park Roots
Reznik's passion and love for baseball
began when he was a child growing
up in Oak Park and rooting for the
Detroit Tigers. He also played softball
and bowled with B'nai B'rith Youth
Organization. (He proudly remembers
bowling two 300 games back in the day.)
Reznik celebrated his bar mitzvah at
Congregation B'nai Moshe in Oak Park.
He's a graduate of Oak Park High School
and Michigan State University.
In the mid-1990s he began working
for Southfield-based Orchards Children's
Services; an organization formed 50 years
ago by the National Council of Jewish
Women. It's now an independent child wel-
fare agency providing foster care, adoption
and family preservation services to more
than 4,000 Michigan children in six coun-
Reznik was initially a foster care worker.
But in 1996, he started running Orchards'
baseball program and his career took
off. In 2002, he did the same thing for
Think Detroit Inc., which merged with
the Detroit Police Athletic League in
2006. After taking a few years off, Reznik
returned to Think Detroit PAL in 2010. He
also runs the boys and girls school basket-
ball leagues.
"Of course, we have children from
two-parent homes, but many come from

single-parent homes living well below
the poverty line Reznik says. "We rely
on outside funding, individual donations
and grants to keep our programs afloat.
I work for Think Detroit PAL because I
think it's the youth of Detroit who need
[a program like this] the most. Generally
speaking, the resources are there for most
children in other Metro Detroit commu-
Detroit's Police Athletic League started
in 1969. The nonprofit organization runs
one of the largest inner-city sports pro-
grams with 90 baseball teams and more
than 270 coaches. But, according to its
website,"There are more than 160,000
young people ages 5-18 living in Detroit
who are not involved in any type of
after-school activity. Think Detroit PAL
aims to serve one out of every 10 Detroit
Reznik handles every detail from pre-
paring schedules to ordering equipment
and uniforms. Parents sign their children
up for the program and pay a fee of
about $50 (there are also scholarships
and discounts). Opening day for baseball
is in early June; the season runs through
"The toughest part of the job is to see a
child quit for any reason:' Reznik says. "To
see even one child potentially go down the
wrong path is bothersome to me."

Baseball on page 10

8 April 5 • 2012

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