Nfld. & Labrador

One-of-a-kind, hand-painted skateboards up for sale

Young artists are selling off their latest creations — custom-designed skateboards — all to benefit Nevaeh's Lemonade Stand.

It's just the latest project by the Choices For Youth ventures program

The young artists with Choices For Youth hoist up their specially designed skateboards. For confidentiality reasons, Choices For Youth policy is not to identify the youths who participate in their programs. (Submitted by NL Boards)

Young artists are selling off their latest creations — custom-designed skateboards — for a good cause.

NL Boards is the latest innovative Youth Ventures project at Choices for Youth.

The group got 14 blank skateboards to use as canvasses, and each of the young participants gave it their own artistic flourish.

The boards are going up for sale Thursday at 6 p.m., at the Choices For Youth thrift shop Neighbourhood in St. John's, where the youth will also have some of their own original artworks up for sale.

Mike Barbour holds a board made with a collaborative design with all the vulnerable youth taking part in the NL Boards project. (CBC)

"The buy-in from them was the most important part, because it aligned with their passions," said Mike Barbour, Youth Ventures co-ordinator.

"There was very little needed from me to get this ball rolling."

Barbour was trying to come up with a new project that young people would be enthusiastic about taking part in — enthusiasm being the key.

"If we came up with something they were passionate [about] we'll have buy-in right form the beginning, and at the same time, something they were good at," Barbour said.

"Art seemed to fit both of those categories. It was kind of funny because we were sitting around discussing our ideas and one of the kids actually said, 'You know what would be really cool? If we could create skateboards.' I said, 'Well, why not?'"

Barbour got in touch with Canadian company Easy People, which provided him with 14 boards.

Next up was letting the youth create in a way they were comfortable.

"It was absolutely incredible to see the encouragement from one another when it came to their designs. We started off at the beginning; we wanted to make sure that the kids were comfortable enough to share their designs," he said.

"We kind of created this environment where people were able to share their ideas without fear of ridicule, so then we started putting those ideas out there, the encouragement from one another, it kind of snowballed, and it was an environment that everybody loved to be in."

Meet young people where their interests are

NL Boards is akin to the Choices for Youth Impact Construction program, which trains vulnerable youth in hands-on skills that can later be used in the job market.

They also opened Neighbourhood, a retail thrift store, as well as a manufacturing shop.

When it comes to programming, offering young people opportunities they are actually interested in pursuing is essential, said Chelsey MacNeil, the director of education, employment and social enterprises.

"At Choices for Youth, it sounds funny, but choice is one of the most important components," she said.

This board's design is inspired by Neaveh's Lemonade Stand, and will be up for silent auction. (Submitted by NL Boards)

"For this particular project, teaching young people that ideation process and what it means to be self employed is not only just empowering, but it's enormously creative and really does capture the spirit of positive youth development in our community."

When it comes to measuring progress, MacNeil said it's more important to look at the level of engagement — and with that as the measure of success, NL Boards, she said, has been outstanding.

"How they've engaged with this particular Youth Ventures program has been incredible. We've seen youth retention in the programs, we've seen them access additional services outside the program itself," she said.

"A big part of working with young people … is meeting young people where they're at, being non-judgmental in all the work we do, and operating with optimism. The impact on young people when they are self-actualizing, when they are able to create something, see something, it's really impactful."

All proceeds from the sale of the skateboards will go to Nevaeh's Lemonade Stand, a local charity started by young Nevaeh Denine, who lost her battle with cancer last year.

Barbour said there will be individual boards up for sale, as well as a silent auction with clear lemonade inspiration.

The sale is happening at Neighbourhood of Pearson Street, starting at 6 p.m.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show