A 15-year-old teenager desperately wanted to play basketball at an X-Sport Fitness facility in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb just outside of Chicago. The boy, who once had a membership, said he and his mother couldn’t afford to continue payments to renew use of the facilities.
That meant that the boy had to repeatedly sneak in to play basketball. At one point, according to the Chicago Tribune, that included hiding in a bathroom stall as workers tried to coax him out to leave.
The situation got so intense that police officers were soon called to deal with the boy. But rather than arrest him for trespassing, Officer Mario Valenti responded to the August call in a noble and charitable way: by purchasing a membership for the boy so that he could use the facilities without incident.
Valenti took $150 of his own income and put it toward the membership fees. That amount only covered about three months of membership. Yet, inspired by Valenti’s act of giving, X-Sport Fitness’s corporate offices decided to waive the fees for the remainder of the year — which would have cost an additional $718.
Valenti explained his philosophy on dealing with people while on the job, including kids just trying to use a gym.
“Most of us took this job to help people, not to hurt them,” he said. “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.”
“Doing a good thing can be contagious,” he added.
The generosity of Valenti and the fitness center may help the boy in more ways than they could have initially imagined. The teenager is apparently being scouted by the NBA and has received national attention for his ball-playing skills.
For many people, providing help can seem like an overwhelming endeavor. But generous acts like Valenti’s happen daily, and it’s important to be reminded that individuals like him are out there providing an important service to their communities.
We should all be inspired to perform small acts of kindness whenever we’re able to — even the smallest gesture can mean the world to those in need.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado