Conserving A Culture, Framing The Future: Skate 4 Homies

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Pictured from left to right, the Liberty Park class lines up with Ingersoll and their instructors: James Nichols, Sage Brandt, Calvin Demery (S4H instructor), Koty Lopez (Youth City Instructor), Kasim BakenRa, Todd Ingersoll, Elijah Fryman, Ozzly Rallis, Devon O'Brian, Rahsaan Tronier, Donte Stroud, Sam Bray, Copper, Hedi Bogus, Erin Kelleher (Youth City instructor), James Jette. Photo: Chris Swainston

“I wanted to do something that was a collective good, to show kids that they can be good and do good things together and have good things happen,” says Todd Ingersoll, founder of Skate 4 Homies. It was a little over a year ago when Ingersoll had the idea to create a non-profit organization focused around the preservation of skateboarding through youth mentoring programs. “Really, what [Skate 4 Homies] is all about is giving back, doing the community a service,” says Ingersoll. 

In 2000, Ingersoll moved to Salt Lake City in pursuit of a professional snowboarding career. He spent the next three years snowboarding and working at the Snowbird Mountain School before a slew of injuries pushed him out. For seven years, Ingersoll ignored his lifelong passions of skateboarding and snowboarding to make a living in construction.  “I looked back at seven years of hustling in the construction industry trying to make a living and I thought, I’m not skateboarding anymore, I’m not snowboarding anymore. I’m not doing anything I did for nearly three-fourths of my life. I’m wasting my life by not enjoying this stuff,” he says.

In March 2010, Ingersoll sat in his garage staring at an old pile of skateboards, thinking of how he could get out of construction and reconnect with skateboarding. “The skate company and clothing company thing has all been done before,” says Ingersoll. “It seems like everyone in the industry wants to make money, be on top and be the man. I wanted to do something that gave back and be the man that way.” He thought starting a non-profit would give him a chance to reconnect with skateboarding and give back to the community at the same time. From that moment on, he started building towards launching Skate 4 Homies.

Using his own money, he rounded up 30 brand-new skateboards and started searching for an existing foundation to partner with.  Unfortunately, because he did not have the appropriate tax codes and government paperwork filled out, his initial attempts were immediately shut down. “I could get a contracting license tomorrow and blow somebody’s house up, but to help people is a ridiculous deal. It’s like a secret society,” says Ingersoll.

Not one to let others thwart his efforts, he kept searching for an organization that wanted what he had to offer. Eventually, it was Kim Thomas, the program manager at Youth City, that took a liking to Ingersoll’s proposal. Youth City is an inclusive after-school development program working with mostly middle-to low-income youth. “Skate 4 Homies’ goal is the same as ours, and that is to work with kids. They are amazing—I’m glad I said yes,” says Thomas. According to Ingersoll, Youth City wasn’t immediately concerned about the lack of tax codes and paperwork. Anything he wanted to incorporate was a go with Youth City. They just wanted him to show up and implement skateboard culture, along with technique and safety, to the kids. “Much of Youth City’s programs are based on sequential skill building, and skateboarding is exactly that. It’s a task that requires the kids’ attention. They have to be focused, in the moment. They have to know what skills they have and don’t have—they can’t fake it,” says Thomas.

Thus, the foundation’s partnership with Youth City was formed. Youth City helped introduced Skate 4 Homies into the community of non-profits, while covering them under their insurance. The partnership presented Ingersoll and his foundation the opportunity to reach out and help the kids he was seeking. “I want to give these kids focus and give them a drive, to have them realize no matter what background you have or what financial situation you come from, you can do well in skateboarding,” says Ingersoll.

The first program launched in October of 2010 through the Youth City after school program at Ottinger Hall (233 N. Canyon Road). Fast-forward seven months and the program has expanded to Liberty Park, Fairmont Park and both the youth and teen programs at Central City Recreation Center.  There are a total of 160 students enrolled in the program, which meets five nights a week from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with the teens meeting on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

In the beginning, Ingersoll worked out of his home, where he stored all the equipment and supplies he need for each class.  He visited each facility on their scheduled day, then took the kids to a nearby skatepark for the lesson program. It worked, but the foundation lacked a place to call home and valuable time was wasted traveling to and from the different sites. Ingersoll wanted to expand the foundation into a warehouse that could be a homebase for Skate 4 Homies. “Having a warehouse has always been a long-term goal for the foundation. I was looking for a space downtown to be our own private training compound for these kids,” says Ingersoll.

In March 2011—one year after the conception of Skate 4 Homies—Ingersoll acquired a 7,000 square foot warehouse. The plan is to design a place for skaters of all different abilities to come and skate: from kids that can’t push, to pros and locals that are taking skateboarding to new levels.  Ingersoll also hopes that the warehouse will give the kids a feeling of ownership. The main space (approximately 49 feet by 52 feet) will house a semi-permanent street setup and two loft spaces for spectators and kids to hang out in. The second space (approximately 30 feet by 60 feet) will be a freeform, ever-changing space filled with movable obstacles. Skateboarding never stays the same—neither should the things you skate. Mid-July 2011 is the projected date to finish the park. The first feature, a manual pad and concrete ledge setup, is finished, and the second, a long and low five stair with ledges on either side, is underway.
 
With help from attorney and girlfriend Heidi Bogus, Ingersoll has filed the 501c3 federal tax code paperwork and is six months into the two-year probationary period before their non-profit status can be approved. “It’s a scary thing. If the state doesn’t approve us, they will make us dissolve instantaneously and they are dead serious about it,” says Ingersoll.

As it stands now, all students of Skate 4 Homies must also be a part of Youth City. Ingersoll teaches the majority of classes with additional help from volunteers like Calvin Demery from the teen program at Central City and local skaters from around the valley. Class starts with a freeform warm-up session before moving to the more structured curriculum focused on mastering the basics. “Right from the beginning, I noticed there were a lot of problems with kids pushing mongo and wanting to have their trucks overly tight. So step one was a push-glide-push then drag your foot to stop,” says Ingersoll. From there, he works with them on balance and turning with one foot and tic-tacing around for better board control. He has the better kids run in with more speed and practice in their switch stance along with trick-oriented basics like ollies, dropping in and kick turns. “Every day I come up with a new idea and I test a portion of that. I don’t ever want to get lame. Being lame would do [Skate 4 Homies] no justice for what it could be,” says Ingersoll.

Skate 4 Homies is much more than just learning how to skateboard, though. “Some of these kids come from really poor homes, some of them have learning disabilities and we didn’t know that going into it. It is a role model situation. The kids look at me like I’m somebody, so they feel special being a part of it all,” says Ingersoll.

When it’s not four wheels down, it’s heads up with teachings about skatepark etiquette, spatial awareness, safety courses, skateboard maintenance and even creative art projects. In December, Skate 4 Homies had a painted board art show that hung at the Discovery Gateway. Ingersoll also implemented a logo design course over the winter. “It was snowing and we didn’t have our own park yet. I had all the kids create their own company name and logo that I screen printed onto T-shirts and bandanas for them. They were super hyped on that,” says Ingersoll.

As far as funding for the program goes, Ingersoll has had tremendous help with gear from S-One Helmets, URF boards based out of L.A., Habitat Skateboards and local shops like Brick and Mortar, Technique and Epic Boardshop in Park City—who just donated $2,600 dollars in product. Although he has had some help from private funding and is in the process of looking for grants that are specific to Skate 4 Homies, ultimately when it’s time to pony up cash for things like rent for the warehouse and building materials, Ingersoll pays out of pocket. “I’m really poor, really broke, but I love every day. It’s so much better than making money in construction. I hated my life then. Now I love it. It’s like, who cares, let’s go skate with kids,” says Ingersoll.

The foundation’s footprint is rapidly growing. Ingersoll says he is already getting emails from other people that want to start chapters of Skate 4 Homies in other parts of the country. “Basically, for Skate 4 Homies to expand who we’re helping right now, I want to reach more kids,” says Ingersoll. Working towards that goal, Skate 4 Homies will be teaming up with Maloof Skateboarding, an organization aimed at bringing a broader view of skateboarding to the world through professional and amateur contests. On June 4 and 5, Skate 4 Homies will be hosting a skate valet and information booth at the Maloof Money Cup tour in Flushing Meadows, New York—the organization’s most widely known premier skateboard event. They will continue the tour with the Money Cup to events in Orange County and South Africa—dates for those events have yet to be released.  On July 24, Ingersoll will again team up with Maloof on their nationwide give-back skate tour, a two-day event that features a local contest at the Orem Milosport and provides a community service project that correlates with skateboarding on the second day. In addition to these events, Ingersoll will host a premier of the Technique video on May 13 at the Skate 4 Homies  warehouse.

Ingersoll plans to continue building the program and hopes to eventually expand to a much larger warehouse while working with other foundations like Autism Hope and the Utah Arts Alliance to give back as a collective good. “Sky’s the limit,” says Ingersoll regarding Skate 4 Homies’ future. “I want to have Skate 4 Homies all over the country, maybe all over the world.”

Check out skate4homies.com for more information about the foundation and ways to give back and donate to the foundation.

Photos:
Pictured from left to right, the Liberty Park class lines up with Ingersoll and their instructors: James Nichols, Sage Brandt, Calvin Demery (S4H instructor), Koty Lopez (Youth City Instructor), Kasim BakenRa, Todd Ingersoll, Elijah Fryman, Ozzly Rallis, Devon O'Brian, Rahsaan Tronier, Donte Stroud, Sam Bray, Copper, Hedi Bogus, Erin Kelleher (Youth City instructor), James Jette. Photo: Chris Swainston Sage Brandt spreads his wings and soars a BS 180. Photo: Chris Swainston Stomping out the basics. James Nichols hovers above a kickflip. Photo: Chris Swainston Beyond the basic, Elijah Fryman takes his tranny to the next level, blunt pull. Photo: Chris Swainston Todd Ingersoll welding for the future. Photo: Chris Swainston Brett Egbert, fakie 5-0 flip. Photo: Chris Swainston Caleb Smith, k flip. Photo: Chris Swainston Little grab for a little guy, James Jette. Photo: Chris Swainston Better then breakfast, fs board Sage Brandt. Photo: Chris Swainston Jon B, ally oop wallride. Photo: Chris Swainsotn Keep your eyes on the prize little buddie, Donte Stroud beems the camera mid manual. Photo: Chris Swainston Caleb Orton, noseblunt. Photo: Chris Swainston Beyond the 50, Kasim BakenRa gets a little smith. Photo: Chris Swainston Warehouse box. Photo: Chris Swainston