You play his video games, mimic his moves from his DVD's and drop everything to catch one of his live demos. And while Tony Hawk is constantly changing the face of skateboarding, he's also helping today's youth. As the founder of the Tony Hawk Foundation, Hawk helps young people build high-quality public skate parks across the nation in low-income communities that lack the resources to do so themselves.
Hawk believes skateboarding can provide young people with a sense of community, responsibility, discipline and healthy exercise. "It taught me how to have self-discipline, self-confidence, and that doing something different wasn't necessarily a bad thing," said Hawk. His mission now is to help as many kids as possible enjoy the same benefits.
Spreading skateboarding in today's society is hard without skateparks because skateboarders are left to hit the streets and parking lots to improve their skills -- at times causing a nuisance to the public and putting themselves in danger.
"I was lucky enough to live near one of the last remaining skateparks in the 1980s, so you [could] find me there on any given day after school," said Hawk. "When I couldn't get a ride to there, I would try to skate down at the strip mall near my house. I got kicked out of there more times than I can remember."
A Place to Skate
In response to thousands of e-mails from kids about getting ostracized or even arrested for skating in public places, Hawk established the Tony Hawk Foundation -- donating his time and financing it with a personal gift. The foundation offers grants to help fund the creation of public skateparks, usually in low-income communities.
In just three years the foundation awarded over $1.1 million to 271 public skatepark projects across the U.S. with an additional $80,000 in ramp equipment donated through the Ramp Partnership program.
The Tony Hawk Foundation awarded 23 additional grants this past spring. At completed parks across the nation, over a million skateboarders are already hitting the ramp and advancing their skills. "We do a tour every fall where we make surprise visits to THF funded parks," said Hawk. "The kids are always grateful and we have a blast skating."
Awards are granted based on community income, the need for a skatepark, the quality of the design, the involvement of the skaters and several other factors.
In addition to financial help, the foundation provides guidance and support to the kids, parents and city officials involved in the process. According to Hawk, the best way for kids to get support for a skatepark is "by giving examples of other successful communities and showing how skateboarding has been a positive influence in their lives."
Once the need for a park is established, many city officials still have no idea what to do. Poor preparation and planning can result in unusable parks and a waste of money. Building a skatepark that is safe, legal and usable is an extremely intricate and involved process. The Tony Hawk Foundation offers advice, checklists and resources to help communities along the way, ensuring that everyone's hard work results in a high-quality skatepark.
As more kids have the opportunity to practice skateboarding in a safe and productive setting, the respect for and interest in skateboarding as a sport increases. "Accessibility is key," said Hawk. "Skateparks are breeding grounds, so we are seeing more skaters and more support for skating than ever before."
Hawk has helped change the image of skateboarding over the years with his passion, skill and community involvement in projects like this. Hawk's advice to aspiring pro-skaters: "Do it because you truly love it, and never stop challenging yourself."
To find out more about the Tony Hawk Foundation or to get help building a skatepark in your community, check out www.tonyhawkfoundation.org.