Times Staff Writer
Getting every child in the Gunnison Valley on “board” — a skateboard, that is — is the goal of an effort underway at Gunnison’s Wheelies and Waves.
Skateboarding — as compared to mountain biking, skiing or snowboarding, each of which can require a hefty financial investment — may be one of the few affordable recreational opportunities for many children. Yet, there are still youngsters in the Gunnison Valley whose family can’t afford to buy a skateboard, which new can cost in excess of $100.
“When I got older, I realized a lot of children couldn’t afford skateboarding,” said Michael Stohlgren, an employee at Wheelies and Waves. “We saw a lot of children, especially at the skatepark, that couldn't make the initial investment, so myself, fellow employees and owners Braden and Courtnee Burton decided to make it happen.”
Starting this month, Wheelies and Waves, located at 110 S. 12th St., will be putting together their second annual skate drive — where they collect gently used skateboard goods from the community, rebuild them into complete boards and give them to children in need.
“What's fun about these donations is that we usually get a variety of stuff so we try to build the most fun setups,” said Stohlgren. “We also donate stuff from the shop to make sure the skateboards look good as possible. We will throw on wheels or whatever it needs to make it fun.”
Wheelies and Waves will be accepting donations until the first week of September, when they will celebrate the effort with a free event at the Gunnison Skatepark. There will be food, prizes and fun times watching people skate.
“Everyone that donates gets thrown in a raffle,” said Stohlgren. “Then we will raffle off prizes from supporting skate companies and local businesses.”
While nothing is set in stone at the moment, Wheelies and Waves is thinking about having a painting station at which children can decorate their new boards.
If someone doesn’t have a skateboard to give away, there are still ways to contribute to the skate drive.
“The things that we always lack are the small things required for a skateboard,” said Stohlgren. “They are really inexpensive like bearings and hardware, which are hard to recycle because people use them until they break.”
Bearings, hardware and wheels, along with other small parts required for a skateboard, can be purchased at Wheelies and Waves for discounted prices and donated to the skate drive.
Last year, Wheelies and Waves put together more than 20 skateboards — donating them to the physical education department at the Gunnison Middle School. This year, they’re hoping to reach the goal of putting together 50 complete skateboards to give out.
This year’s drive is planned to result in boards given to Gunnison Mentors as well as the Good Life Girls in Crested Butte — a program that helps inspire girls to have confidence in themselves, to be able to follow their wildest dreams — and other nonprofits.
“If it takes us handing out skateboards at the skatepark, we will do it,” said Stohlgren. “But it would be great to contribute to these nonprofits that are already putting in the work.”
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)