News & Opinion | October 18, 2017 11:16 am

Chicago Cop Buys Gym Membership for Teen Who Kept Sneaking In

Fitness staff and police later learned the boy is an NBA hopeful for his on-court accomplishments.

A Chicago teen just wanted to play basketball with his friends — and a local police officer is ensuring he’ll be able to for another two years.

The Chicago Tribune reports that an unnamed teen, approximately 15 years old, continually walked past the front desk of an X-Sport Fitness to the basketball court after his mother could no longer afford to pay the membership. Sometimes hiding in bathroom stalls from fitness center employees, the Tribune reports that the employees had “no choice” but to contact the police.

But rather than arresting the teen for criminal trespassing, Officer Mario Valenti stunned fitness center staff when he showed up and offered to pay $150 of his own money to be sure the boy could continue playing, at least for awhile. When the X-Sport Fitness corporate office found out about the offer, they returned with their own: The $150 would go toward a two-year membership, valued at $718. The company would pick up the rest of the cost.

The Tribune also reports that fitness staff and police later learned that the boy is an NBA hopeful who has received attention nationally for his skillful playing. Valenti told the Tribune that he’d rather have him playing ball than “being on the street and possibly getting into trouble.”

As for the center matching the officer’s generosity? Valenti said “doing a good thing can be contagious…I see that all the time.”