“Few and Far Women At : The SkateMD, Healing Hearts Through Skateboarding”
On Saturday, November 8, 2014, twenty special children and thirty-five volunteers gathered at 28th & B Skate Park in Sacramento, CA for the inaugural SkateMD one-on-one skateboard clinic. SkateMD is a Sacramento-based organization recently founded recently by Melanie Tillotson (the “M”) and Andrea “Drea” Bibelheimer (the”D”). Inspired by each other’s personal passions and contributions to at-risk and special needs youth, Melanie and Drea joined forces as “partners in kind” with a mission to heal hearts by spreading kindness and skateboarding to special populations of children facing developmental, physical, emotional or family challenges. Mel and Drea set out to empower children with exercise, positive interactions and fun while increasing compassion and support within the community.
SkateMD’s first event was an amazing experience and was met with smiles all around, tears of joy from several parents, and nothing but positive feedback from parents, participants, and volunteers. Over twenty local skateboarders partnered one-on-one with youth participants with physical and developmental challenges including Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Paralysis. Also on hand were local physical therapists, medical and emergency personnel, and photographers.
Many milestones were reached on this special day. An adorable five year old with paralysis skateboarded for the first time following the example of his two skateboarder mentors who sat on their bottoms and moved along the parking lot using their hands. Once he got going, he was attacking the ramps with a huge smile. A fourteen year old high school girl with Cerebral Palsy had a dream to ride a longboard to high school like her classmates. By the end of the clinic, she was cruising around the park and surprised herself with her abilities. A six year old with Autism was able to enjoy skateboarding for three hours despite being faced with situations which usually trigger behaviors in other environments. His parents commented that he hates loud noises, being touched, and wearing anything on his head; he was subject to all of those circumstances at the clinic but was fully able to enjoy skateboarding. His parents and grandparents were moved to happy tears as he was one of the last children to quit skateboarding for the day. There are seventeen other little stories of small victories and pure joy.
Photos, posts, and emails continued into the following week with nothing but positivity and gratitude. The mother of an 11 year old boy with Autism commented to Mel and Drea that they performed a “Mitzvah”, which she described as “a deed so kind that God is smiling on you”. SkateMD volunteers were indeed kindness champions!
Mel and Drea would like to thank the following donors and volunteers:
Board Rescue who supported our efforts and share our vision with their mission to improve lives through skateboarding. Black Label Skateboards, Lowcard Mag, Hangtown Skate Shop, Parttime Skateboards, and Gina Cerruti for donations of gear and raffle prizes. Thank you to Wes Davis Photographer and Hannah Greene for photography and to Blake Swain for filming (we can’t wait to see all of the beautiful moments captured!). Chick-fil-A Arden Fair and Peet’s Coffee & Tea Alhambra for yummy lunch and coffee. Matt Pailes and the 28th & B Skate Park. Marci Pope at Chico State University who referred her recreational therapy students to volunteer. Ryan Carpenter for our super sweet logo. And, we could not have done it without all of our amazing volunteers who woke up early Saturday morning to take part: Amy Pine, Sissy Swain, Eden Nielsen, Heather Wright, Sarah Sullivan, Alej Hartle, Jonas Ely, Edith Ayala, Scott Bailey, Allan Barclay, Todd Bouchier, Keaton Bolby, Gina Cerruti, Jared Coble, Meleah Cordero, Ralph Cota, Shawn Fosnight, Tommy Genovese, Clint Osternberg, Maryjane Parrish, Kelley Rogers, Tyler Rossi, Robert Sharpe, Kailen and Matt Sullivan, Geoffery Tillotson, Jason Wright, Marty Radan, Garrett Thompson, Jon Yunker, and Erik Bibelheimer. And last but not least, a very special thank you to Erik Nielsen who went the extra mile to individualize the coaching plans for each child.
Photo’s by: Gemini Photo Co.
Everyone involved was greatly impacted by the project and event. These are not just children. Our volunteers are not just skaters. This is more than skateboarding. And fortunately, this is just the beginning. The next clinic is scheduled for late January and families are eager to participate again. To support future SkateMD clinics and activities, please donate using PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org. SkateMD is currently applying for 501c(3) non-profit status.
Skate MD Healing Hearts
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