Four times the charm.
An Ormond Beach youth has received national recognition by being named Police Athletic League Male Youth of the Year by the national PAL association. It’s a notable achievement, but also notable because Cameron Walden is the fourth Ormond Beach youth to receive the recognition.
Graduating seniors are eligible to apply for the award which is presented to those who actively participate in P.A.L. and exhibit outstanding citizenship, academic excellence and community volunteerism, according to information from the organization.
City Commissioner Rick Boehm has commented in the past that it is remarkable to have multiple national winners from Ormond Beach.
“It’s a great tribute to the people who run PAL. as well as the kids,” he said. “It’s just fabulous as far as I’m concerned.”
The other three national winners were Marissa Moss, 2011 (state winner 2010); Greg Berry 2008 (state 2007); Marcus Edwards, 2014 (state 2013). The state and national competitions are separate.
Eric Widness, of National PAL, said the cities of Waterbury, Connecticut, and Howell Township, New Jersey also have multiple national winners.
“There are 300 National PAL Chapters across the country (44 in Florida) and we get dozens of nominations forms,” he wrote in an email. “Why Ormond, Waterbury and Howell have consistent winners is a credit to the kids, the PAL, the community and also the nominator.”
Walden’s involvement with PAL began at the age of 6 when he joined the basketball program. He has over 500 volunteer hours including holiday food drives for the homeless, golf tournament fundraisers; working with youth in the summer art program, Easter Seals Respite care, the Jewish Federations Backpack and school supply drive, National Night Out events and being a mentor and Big Brother to several kids at the South Ormond Neighborhood Center and various elementary schools.
He is graduating from Seabreeze High School with academic honors and plans to attend Lynn University in South Florida to pursue a career in pharmacology.
Belinda Legut, PAL recreation leader, said the past winners all had leadership qualities and had an interest in helping others.
“If somebody didn’t fit in, Cameron would take them under his wing and make them feel part of the group,” she said.
Walden, 18, said he saw young people “come out of their shell” while in PAL, and he learned social skills that he will use the rest of his life.
In his application, he listed his parents as his role models.
“My dad worked two jobs. He would work all day and then work nights at the Ormond Recreation Center,” he said. “My mother worked hard too. They were the perfect role models.”