Washington Youth Academy taking a ‘ride on the wild side’

Drivers passing by Pendergast Park at about 9 a.m. Sunday, May 31 will hear the roar of motorcycle engines permeating the air, or at least that is the hope.

The event is an attempt to raise money for recreational equipment needed for the cadets who take part in the Washington Youth Academy program, according to Larry Pierce, deputy director.

“The event will feature a local ride and bike show judged by the cadets,” he said. “We will award a trophy for ‘Cadets’ Choice’ for first, second and third place. Rottweiler Bikes is co-sponsoring the event.”

The activities will start with the bikes gathering at Pendergast Park at 9 a.m. and then departing for JR’s Hideaway in Belfair at 9:50 a.m.

John Pakele, father to one of the cadets in the program, has been instrumental in organizing the ride, Pierce said.

“He just took the ball and ran with it,” Pierce said.

The two met at a family day when Pierce came outside to see Pakele’s custom chopper.

“This guy came out and was just checking out my bike,” Pakele said. “Unbeknownst to me, it was the deputy director.”

Pierce told Pakele about the academy’s situation and he agreed to do what he could to help out.

“I told him ‘I’ll do whatever you need,’” Pakele said. “’I’ll be your leg man.’”

The academy is in need of items like baseballs, bats, helmets, portable basketball systems, basketballs, badminton equipment, racquetball equipment, dodge-balls, board games, jump ropes, bocce balls, croquet equipment, disc golf equipment, horseshoes, free weights and more, according to Pakele.

“The program pushes them really hard,” he added. “This stuff is needed.”

Pakele’s son, 17, entered the program earlier this year as part of the first-ever cadet class. A teary-eyed Pakele explained the situation.

“He’s a real good kid,” Pakele said. “A very good kid. He is respectful. He has good manners. It is just their generation. They are lazy. That is why he went in there. That is why I wanted him to go in there. I told him ‘What is six months of your life now to make a positive change?’”

He said he also feels that parents these days focus too much on their careers and not enough on their children, which is a factor that contributed to his own child’s need for the structure of the academy.

“In life, it doesn’t matter how much money you get,” he said. “All that matters is your time with your kids.”

After having been away from home for 11 weeks, Pakele said he noticed a change in his son’s attitude on family day.

“We always had this handshake we did with each other,” Pakele said. “We began doing it when he had to go back, but halfway through it, he pulled me close, gave me a hug and said ‘I love you Dad.’ That was a great moment.”

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