Kids in the remote First Nations village of Ahousaht, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, could soon get a skateboard park, as outreach workers strive to help young people feeling isolated.
Ahousaht is located on Flores Island, a 45-minute boat ride north of Tofino, B.C. and is home to about 900 people. But the isolation has contributed to some social issues — including a number of suicides or attempted suicides over the years.
Grant Shilling thinks skateboarding can help. The outreach worker from Cumberland, B.C., volunteers with a non-profit called Get On Board, which uses board sports to help young people develop confidence and life skills.
"Fun is a way of forgetting about some of life's bigger problems," he said. "Once kids start skateboarding they attach themselves to healthier pursuits and it becomes a focus and a passion and that's the way forward for some people."
Only one paved road
A few years ago, Shilling convinced the Vancouver company Landyachtz to donate some longboards and helmets to kids in Ahousaht, and the company also held a workshop to teach kids how to build the boards themselves.
The project was a huge hit — but the community of Ahousaht only has one paved road and Landyachtz co-owner Mike Perreten realized there were few options for kids to ride the boards.
"I was really concerned that the boards are fun right now, but they are going to get sick of it pretty quickly."
From there, the idea to raise money for a skate park was born. Perreten said if all goes well, he wants to see construction start this spring.
Fundraising for $40K
Collin Miller, 20, of Ahousaht, has been riding his skateboard on whatever pavement he can. He said he hopes to work with younger kids in the new park.
"I think anybody has the potential to be a really good skateboarder as long as they enjoy and love what they are doing," he said, adding he thinks finding confidence on four wheels can help with other challenges in life.
It will take at least $40,000 to build the skateboard park. So far Ahousaht has gathered $10,000 and Landyachtz has promised to donate another $10,000.
Organizers hope others will lend a hand through an online fundraising campaign.
Shilling hopes people will consider it, especially with the recent outpouring of support for Ahousaht after residents managed to save some of those onboard a whale watching boat that tragically sank last month.
"I would say this is an opportunity for people to send a love letter to Ahousaht," he said.
"This a very concrete way to say thank you for all the efforts they put forward in terms of that rescue effort and to help Ahousaht move along."