Skateparks are not built in a day. And they’re not cheap either. So six years ago the most famous ambassador of the sport, Tony Hawk, decided to establish a foundation to both raise money to build safe, legal places for kids to skate and to help empower the armies of youths that are picking up the sport at break-neck speed.
This weekend, the man himself will arrive in the Hamptons with his own army of supporters and big time celebrities that have lent their names and their wallets to his cause. For the last five years Stand Up for Skateparks has been held exclusively on the west coast in glitzy Beverly Hills, California. But this year the east coast version of the star-studded event will take place on Sunday at the Ross Lower School.
When asked about some of his favorite moments from past events, Hawk recalled, “Raising $60,000 in a matter of minutes for a skatepark project in Compton, and watching Shaun White try his first 900.”
Director of the Tony Hawk Foundation Kim Novick said holding the event in the Hamptons had nothing to do with the area’s reputation as being the Beverly Hills of the east coast.
“We chose the Hamptons, to be honest, because there’s wide open space,” said Novick.
She said the foundation would have been hard-pressed to find even a venue that could hold Hawk’s personal ramp.
Each Stand Up for Skateparks event is essentially a pledge drive so the foundation can execute its mission throughout the year. The foundation builds skateparks in low-income areas all over the country. Novick said other than California, New York has the highest concentration of foundation-built parks. In total, over the last six years the foundation has awarded $2.3 million to over 390 skatepark projects in 47 different states. Sunday’s event will target their latest project in New York City, the Manhattan Bridge Skatepark.
There is also an educational aspect to Hawk’s foundation, particularly in attempting to shatter the old perceptions about skaters. While many kids that skate are still viewed as troublemakers, often when they’re hanging out in public places, skating where signs say they shouldn’t, a goal of the foundation is to prove that stereotype wrong.
“The general public has come to realize that skating can have a positive impact on a child’s life, and it’s not just an activity for outcasts and daredevils,” said Hawk.
“That is definitely a misperception, these kids are choosing this as a healthy sport. Kids are starting to pick up boards rather than bats and balls,” said Novick.
She said they’re finding that many skateparks are even being built on old tennis courts and baseball diamonds. She said municipalities often approach them and say they have some land for a park and it turns out to be an old baseball field.
“There’s 12.3 million skaters out there,” she said. “It is one of the largest growing sports in America right now. It is surpassing baseball and football. We need to find these public safe and legal places for them to practice the sport.”
Hawk hopes his message reaches out not just to kids but also to city planners, to parents and to law enforcement to help them realize that skateparks do more than benefit skaters.
“It not only empowers the kids of the community, but it betters the community as well.”
For more information on Sunday’s event, visit www.tonyhawkfoundaiton.org