Skateboarders from near and far are dropping in to compete in a skate contest that is more about congregation than competition.
JSAW, a nonprofit skateboarding ministry with roots in Chanhassen, Minn., is visiting Greenlaw Community Center at 190 Mill Ave. near Uptown to host a skateboarding competition.
The event, which also includes skateboarding lessons and “skate-church,” will take place Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. and consists of a dual divisional mini-ramp contest.
JSAW was founded in 2004 by Jonny Nelson and Randy Monroe. Nelson, a teenager at the time, hoped to create a safe and enjoyable environment for young people to hang out, skateboard and share their faith. Monroe was a businessman, proactive about helping Nelson’s vision become reality.
“Skating is just a really great tool for connecting with kids … that really affords great opportunities to be mentoring with children,” said Skatelife Memphis founder Aaron Shafer. “It’s kind of an avenue right into their world and you’re able to build a quick rapport with them.”
Skatelife Memphis was born after Shafer moved to Memphis from California and discovered there was no place to skate safely with his children. He started advocating the construction of a new skate park and in the process began mentoring inner-city children.
Today, Shafer is one of the leading advocators for Greenlaw Community Center, working to promote a safe environment to learn, form relationships with youths and, of course, skateboard.
Greenlaw Community Center is the product of Memphis Athletic Ministries, a mentoring program that concentrates on building relationships with inner-city youth. In 2009, Skatelife Memphis competed for and won a Nike grant of $2,500.
MAM planned to use that money to build a mini-ramp outside of Greenlaw but near the completion of the ramp, the city of Memphis voiced concerns about the liability of an outdoor ramp and construction came to a screeching halt. That was until Greenlaw Community Center director, Detric Golden, offered his assistance.
Detric supported the idea of moving the ramp inside the Greenlaw Community Center and after speaking to MAM, construction of a new indoor mini-ramp commenced.
“Thanks to Detric,” Shafer said, “we got out of a pickle and thanks to MAM we now have a full-on skateboarding program.”
Saturday’s contest will feature the “Greenlaw Groms” and the “Greenlaw Gromettes,” the boy and girl teams put together by skate minister, Dustin Mallory. Mallory has also constructed a wall-ride where a “Best Trick” competition will take place.
The contest is the main reason the event is being held but connecting with kids is another.
“Part of it is just the opportunity to connect with another group,” Youth pastor and skateboard scholar, Mark Jannetta, said. “From my point of view, it gives added value to what we’re already doing with the kids. We’ve never had a contest here. It’s hopefully the first of many. It gives them the opportunity to be a part of something bigger and better than just the regular everyday runnings.”