Eddie Shapiro, Rifka Ashete, Natalie Shapiro, Omri Shahaf and Maoz Trudler with the proud skaters and their 'trophies' at the end of the year

Four years ago, we thought about creating a skateboarding program for underprivileged kids. Our thinking was that skateboarding encourages kids to get off the streets; is personally challenging; requires the development of skills and discipline and is especially fun. We tried presenting the idea of such a program to a nonprofit organization, but they felt they couldn’t organize it.

We shelved the idea until Natalie met Nina Zuck and ESRA. The moment Nina heard the idea, she became excited and said that ESRA could put it all together. Dealing with ESRA is like a breath of fresh air.

After solving the problem of insurance coverage for the kids, it was plain sailing.

Maoz Trudler, a student and deeply committed skateboarder, agreed to train the kids for two hours a week and revealed himself to be an unbelievably patient coach. Nina enlisted the cooperation of the community center of Neot Shaked. Rivka Ashete, a student from the Students Build a Community project, was given an extra scholarship by ESRA to bring the kids to and from the skatepark and to help Maoz.  Omri Shahaf, ESRA’s youngest volunteer, and an excellent skateboarder himself, came to help the kids too. We bought equipment for 15 kids (roughly half boys and half girls aged 11-12) and within weeks the program was up and running.

Each Tuesday at 5pm, Rivka met the kids at the community center where they signed out their equipment: top-of-the-line skateboards, helmets, knee and elbow pads and gloves. She walked them over to the skate park where Maoz proceeded to teach them, starting with the basics. None of the kids had ever stepped on a skateboard until early November 2016, but by July 4, 2017, all the kids were skateboarding and loving it. Some of them turned out to be really talented, but each one who completed the program was a star!

A group of skateboarders taking their first steps

At the graduation ceremony, the skateboarders were given their equipment, after signing a pledge to honor the skateboarding code: to show respect, assist others and continue to remain committed to skateboarding. Three of them were appointed assistant coaches to help Maoz with next year’s new inductees. During the first week of school next year, we plan to conduct a 5-day boot-camp to select next year’s participants, 30 in total.

Next year, thanks to help from the Lipmans, the Zysmans and Azrieli Hakim, we plan to run two groups: Neot Shaked and Kiryat Nordau/ However, the Nordau kids will have to be bused to the skate park.

All involved agree that this has been an extremely successful program. If the Netanya Municipality rises to the challenge to organize the bussing of kids from Kiryat Nordau and it proves to be manageable, then we have found a model which we can roll out in many underprivileged neighborhoods where ESRA operates and which is also cost effective. The NIS 40,000 per annum spent on a group is a one-off cost, because after learning the basic skills and receiving the full set of equipment, the kids become independent the following year. And remember that skateboarding will become an Olympic sport in 2020.

Thank you ESRA for helping make this a reality.

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