GUEST BLOGGER BETH CRAWFORD
For the first time, on Friday 1/9/15, we loaded up my son’s BMX bike in the backseat and rolled out to find the Awakening Youth Skatepark at The Blended Church, 2215 Country Club Rd. Just barely across the Marion County line, many Hendricks County BMX and skateboard riders began streaming in to take advantage of the ramps set up once a month by youth pastor Jeremy Plumley.
His enthusiasm for the youth who ride BMX and skateboarders has led him to work to get the gym/recreation area of his church transformed into a skatepark to provide free riding from 6pm-12 on the 2nd Friday of every month. With a stage for a band, ping-pong table, foosball tables and bleachers for spectators, the gymnasium area transforms into the skatepark that gives otherwise cooped up teens and young adults a place to ride while temps outside make it impossible.
A few parents come in to fill out the required liability waivers, then squeeze back out the door to head home while their rider disappears into the maze of ramps. A few parents hang around to watch, but nothing like you would see at a soccer game. Or even a soccer practice. And what a shame! These guys are great entertainment to watch!
I chatted with one father of a skateboard rider who is from Brownsburg, attending East Middle School. The son stood back with his dad, taking in the sight of the skateboarders whipping past. To be fair, there were a lot of riders. He seemed a little hesitant to get into the mix as his dad and I talked about how difficult it is for the riders to find a place to ride safely.
He, too, has taken his son to Major Taylor skatepark when the weather was warmer, which is one of the few skateparks around. He had also felt as I did for a long time that these kids were trouble-makers and we weren’t too sure we wanted our kids to hang around with them.
As I have become more familiar with the riders in our area, I have found them to be intelligent, caring, spirited kids who happen to have a love of BMX or skateboard riding. We agreed that the stereotype is largely incorrect. The older riders actually police the younger kids, encouraging cooperation and good sportsmanship.
Looking around the transformed gym, I watched riders of all ages and sizes take their turns on the ramps. It is immediately clear that they have learned to keep practicing until they get a trick down. They fall, flip their board, lose their bikes, roll out and get up to try again. And again. They watch others, talk over their trick to get guidance from more experienced riders. There isn’t yelling or fighting. These athletes are concentrating on their tricks. They fall down and get back up. Somewhat like they will do in life. Watching the focus on the faces of these riders, it is clear they have grit and perseverance.
Even though hanging around the gym to watch the riders might involve a runaway skateboard to the shin, only a few parents stayed. There is an ample set of bleachers in this gym, yet there are rarely places for parents to watch their athlete perform the tricks they’ve learned. Unlike soccer or football, basketball or volleyball, there are no ‘game days’ for these riders. Parents aren’t likely to pull up a folding chair in the Marsh parking lot on a Saturday morning to watch the tricks their kid has been working on all week. It has to be discouraging to the riders who are unable to legally ride anywhere nearby.
BMX and skateboarding are real sports even though they are often overlooked. The athletes persevere and conquer their tricks, but often celebrate their victories alone. Thanks to people like Jeremy and The Blended Church, for one night a month, they have a place of their own to go where their sport is recognized. Come out and watch!
This is a different kind of entertainment for spectators and participants and you can’t beat the price- FREE. So when the snow is piling up and the wind chill is low enough to get nose-sickles on the way to the car, throw the skateboard or bike in the back seat and head out to Awakening Youth Skatepark the 2nd Friday of each month.
And parents, stick around and watch these amazing athletes who love to perform for an audience. It might be a little cringe-worthy to watch the riders fly up the ramps, but they learn to fall without breaking bones (usually). To see the bravery of these athletes will change your mind about ‘those skater kids’.
Come see their passion, enthusiasm and courage as they practice a sport they love even though they have few places to ride and are consistently told ‘you can’t ride here.’ Imagine what would happen if any time a soccer player walked onto a grass area they were told to ‘go away, this is illegal, you can’t do this here’. Starting with Jeremy at AY Skatepark and the vision of Wheels Up Youth Center, we are working as a community to give BMX and skateboard riders a permanent place to practice and compete in their sport.
If you have a rider who wants to come out, check out the AY Skatepark website before making the trip for liability waiver and rules. Riders must be 12 years old and bring proof of age (school ID). Spectators of all ages are allowed. If you are bringing a rider that is not your child, their parent/guardian can have the waiver signature notarized. Otherwise, it has to be signed in front of an AY Skatepark rep.
The next skate night will be Friday, February 13th. Follow AY Skatepark on Facebook for details on the growing activities planned for that event. AY Skatepark website is www.awakeningyouth.tv.
Keep calm and ride on!
Beth Crawford is the founder/director of Wheels Up Youth Center coming soon to Hendricks County. She is the mother of three children ages 26, 23 and 15. She has survived raising two teens and feels fairly confident she will survive the third.
After years in warehouse management, she discovered her passion is for supporting and encouraging teens. She left her ‘career’ in May 2014 and is focusing full-time on bringing a youth center with indoor bike/skatepark to Hendricks County to give teens a place to go every day and Villagers to support them. More info on Beth and Wheels Up Youth Center can be found at www.wheelsupyouthcenter.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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