With a crowd of 1,000 guests, a few hundred staff and volunteers combined, the Tony Hawk Foundation put on their 9th annual Stand Up for Skateparks fundraising event on Sunday Oct. 7th ,2012. Once again they rallied the troops and raised closed to a million dollars to help at-risk youth in low income communities across the U.S. who need quality public skateparks. As a Board member for Skaters for Public Skateparks, it was my first year volunteering for this event and I was truly honored to be there. I met many people who had either worked or volunteered for SUFS in the past. Everyone involved from the THF Staff and set-up crews to the vert legends in the demo and celebrities were all beyond kind and gracious. It felt very much like one big happy family. The underlying cause has obviously transcended the barriers of economic background and social status. In a day and age when I find myself continuously striving for progress in the grass roots effort of advocating for skateparks in my community and across the nation, it was extremely refreshing to see so many people in the same place who “get it.”
This adventure started out for me the day before the actual event. I did everything from help set up the Kohl’s booth with an estimated 300+ pairs of shoes to running the Birdhouse clinic with 80’s Powell Team rider and inventor of the Judo Air, Adrian Demain. Talk about a down to earth, humble guy. I had a great afternoon working with and getting to know Adrian. We handed out dozens of Birdhouse Kickfilpper boards to guests. All they had to do was sign a quick waiver, throw on a helmet and get out on the parquet gym-like floor with a skateboard. We had everyone from UFC legend Chuck “Iceman” Liddell and Metallica bass player, Robert Trujillo to band members of headlining Jimmy Eat World participating. It was awesome! A couple of the Birdhouse Team members skated with many of the kid’s and fellow rider, Willy Santos stopped by. Several moms & dads got on boards as well. I helped one mother skate and saved her from a fall with a couples dance inspired dip. Shortly after, I made the mistake of assuming another mom needed my hands on assistance only to learn that she could skate quite well. I looked over to Adrian who motioned the ch,ch double slapping motion. We all got a good laugh out of that and fun was had by all.
Back on Saturday evening, there was an exclusive poolside gathering at the Mondrian Hotel. It was here that I had the opportunity to meet the man responsible for all of the hype, Tony Hawk himself. His calm demeanor, yet very busy schedule reminded me of a few important background details that helped keep things in perspective. First of all, thru the best and worst of times Tony has always given back to skateboarding in many ways. He never stopped skating, inventing tricks, doing demos, along with many other elements of sharing the stoke and new steez. With all do respect to every other professional skateboarder in history and currently, Tony Hawk became a household name and connected the dots for all who don’t live and breathe the art or sport of skateboarding. He brought down walls and overcame stereotypes all while helping the general public desire to get more involved with their own children, to watch skateboarding continue to evolve and grow into the huge worldwide culture that it is today. My conversation with Tony was understandably brief, however his impression on me and impact on the rest of the skating world and beyond has proven to be priceless.
It was on the ride to the airport with my good friend, skateparks mentor and Hawk Foundation Programs Director Peter Whitley, that another key detail hit me. As I was still reeling from everything that had taken place over the previous 3 days, I realized that Tony Hawk doesn’t have to do any of this. The coolest part is that not only does he, but truly wants to and it all just keeps growing. Ultimately benefiting more and more youth along with their families. Who else could gather so many professional skaters, bmx riders, other pro athletes, rock stars, movie stars, successful business people and more, all in one place to support and contribute to the future of skateparks. Quality designed & built, well located and permanent concrete constructed skateparks that is.
These are just some of the celebrities who came out to enjoy the festivities in support of the Tony Hawk Foundation- Jon Favreau, Jason Lee, Shaun White, Chuck Liddell, Bill Walton, Fred Durst, Michael Rapaport, Leeza Gibbons, Willie Garson, J.R. Martinez, Lindsey Berg, Chris Harrison, Nyjah Huston, Mike “Rooftop” Escamilla, Robert Trujillo, Edwin Moses, Holly Robinson Peete, A.C. Green, David Spade, Marisa Quinn, Lou Wegner, Jason Ellis, Nate Mendel, Mike Vallely and DJ Z-Trip deejayed. The energy of the vert demo was amazing! Legends Tony Hawk, Andy Macdonald and Kevin Staab, as well as Mitchie Brusco, Lyn-Z Adams Hawkins Pastrana, Lincoln Ueda, and BMX icons Jamie Bestwick and Mat Hoffman all killed it leaving the crowd wanting more. Good reason for everyone to plan on attending next year for sure. I found myself having a whole new respect for every one of riders after helping change the stickers out under the coping during the final stages of set up. Just standing on the deck was a humbling experience.
With an opening press conference, hugely successful silent and live auction, lots of family oriented booths, games, tons of great food, a high flying vert demo and more, the day was rounded out with Jimmy Eat World performing live on stage. They put on a solid performance with musical energy that rivaled any show I have attended. Passion for the cause in helping secure the advancement of skateparks further across the country was very prevalent all day. Right up until the last song was played and conversation was had between friends old & new. The Tony Hawk Foundation continues to connect the dots one skatepark at a time. Recently they donated to their 512th skatepark! With the caliber of this event, they are likely already planning for next year. My goal was to represent Skaters for Public Skateparks, give back to the THF and skateboarding/parks in general. It felt very surreal and indescribably good to do so. With so many caring and giving people working together, the future looks very bright for skateboarding youth across America. No deed is too small to bother doing in the grass roots cause of skatepark advocacy. Don’t ever hesitate to follow Tony and so many others example. The research has been done, the stats are out there (see the Public Skatepark Development Guide on the THF or SPS websites) and the benefits to at risk youth are immeasurable. I will continue to highly encourage every skater, parent and community servant to do what you can. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a skatepark, than your neighborhood is a skatepark. As skateboarding continues to grow worldwide, ignoring the problem will not make it go away. We need more skateparks! If you’re not sure where to start, go to http://www.tonyhawkfoundation.org/ and explore right here on http://www.skatepark.org/ . We work together to serve the greater good. No need to re-invent the wheel. There is a vast skateparks network in place and resources to help your community today!
Words: Mike Leeds
Photos: Tony Hawk Foundation