My boys have been avid skateboarders for almost 15 years. During that time we have spent countless hours and money investing in this sport, which it surely is a sport.
The boys gave organized sports a try and decided the skateboard world offered more than they found in seasonal sports. These kids would skate year round no matter what the weather. This world put them into a “family” of kids who were unlike those jocks they previously mixed with. Many of these kids defied the “loner, pot-smokers” image although certainly there are some of those as well.
What appealed to them most was the camaraderie not found elsewhere. They found a supportive culture where everyone cheered on the others successes and taught them motivation, creativity and persistence in trying tricks and moves in endless attempts until they got it done. The sound of your friends cheering you on cannot be sweeter to these kids. All you needed was a board and off you went. You could make friends just by skating. You didn’t even have to be any good at it.
Thanks to Chris Simonelli, the city created the skate park although they discourage these athletes from skating after 4pm during the winter as the lights are not allowed to turn on there. All the talk about childhood obesity and these kids are not allowed to exercise their sport because of only being allowed to do it outside and when the light is available. Have you ever seen a fat skateboarder? How much trouble do you hear about at the skate park?
Sure, there is trouble in the back behind the park where the drunks and drug addicts hang around who have nothing to do with skating. Yes, I have mentioned this to several police officers. They agree and say they will keep a better eye out on the area. Just as the Teen Enrichment Center appeals to certain teens, this park is vital to those who skate.
My husband and I have known countless boys who have come into our car or home and have been nothing less than respectful and thankful for our friendship and burgers and dogs we have fed them over the years. I make the statement I am trying to “save the world one boy at a time” and can say Shawn Clark felt the same way.
I have never met him, yet he comes highly recommended and had been lovingly called “Skate Dad” by the kids. Many of these kids don’t have active dads in their lives, and just as my husband and I have tried to be an influence, Shawn Clark was there for many of those kids. He understood the skate culture and was a mentor to those kids, who are not out there with guns robbing people. He was there to show them a better way. He was also there to show them someone actually cared about them. He was ok with them hanging around and provided a bench like no other outside his shop. He wanted them to be there.
Unlike other store owners who just want their money, he cared about them. And they knew it and felt it.
Shawn Clark was an example of what this city needs more of: someone who can be a positive influence on our young people who are trying to figure out this world they are growing into. He was an example of the good role models we need for our young people. He was doing the work of those who are not there to guide these young people to a successful, productive life.
He was a real unsung hero. He didn’t care they were not the jocks and brainiacs in school to whom so many in this city and others give all the advantages. He made them feel worthy of the respect all humans crave. Those who took his life certainly needed someone like Shawn in their own lives, as they clearly have lost their way. Now that Shawn is no longer there, who will step up for those boys who still need his mentoring? It seems he cannot rest in peace knowing he left those behind to fend for themselves, especially his own family.
If this city is serious about cutting down on crime, they need to invest in ALL the young people and honor the memory of Shawn Clark. I personally want to thank him for being a friend and an ally for those boys who, despite being labeled as underserving of better facilities, surely needed him to guide them. How many more senseless crimes will it take before we don’t have to fear those who are there to harm the good people of this city just trying to live a decent life?
It does take a village to raise a child, so we need to do what Shawn showed us how to do: respect each other, no matter what your passion is.