On Saturday, November 16, Skateistan in New Doornfontein was alive with the sounds of happy youngsters as 20 young Special Olympics SA athletes clad in their blue t-shirts and a group of neighbourhood children graduated after completing a 3-month skateboarding pilot programme run in partnership with The Skateroom and Skatesistan.
The graduation event included DJ Jules on the decks, rap by new kid on the block, Steero, and a demonstration by 11-year-old pro skateboarder, Ashton Banwell. Actor, presenter and basketball promoter Sbu Shongwe was there to congratulate the children and hand them their medals.
Ashton has joined Special Olympics SA as their newest and youngest Ambassador and to support the development of the skateboarding partnership.
At the event inner city children and the SOSA athletes skated around on their boards and excitedly accepted their medals for completion of the programme.
The pilot programme was the first of its kind in Africa, and was funded by part of the sales of The Skateroom x Van Gogh Museum art decks collection, adorned with iconic artworks by Vincent Van Gogh.
The aim of the partnership is providing athletes with an intellectual disability the opportunity to try a new sport, gain more self-confidence, experience freedom, and learn new life skills.
Special Olympics CEO, Ancilla Smith says,“It has been an exciting 3 months of training for our athletes and the level of skills that they have gained is amazing.
Skateboarding is a completely new sport for us and the Skateistan Skate and Create program is the perfect introduction for people living with an intellectual disability. Today has been a wonderful experience for all involved as it brings together all the elements that make skateboarding such an exciting sport for participants and spectators alike.
“Our SOSA athletes followed an adapted version of the Skateistan’s Skate and Create program, which combines skateboarding with creative education.
With the help of the Skateistan educators, athletes followed an arts-based curriculum, designed to help them explore the world around them, have fun and develop their own talents and interests in skateboarding,” says Smith.
The Skateroom said they are ‘delighted to have enabled this partnership’ thanks to the Van Gogh’s Museum’s commitment to their social and engaged business model.
“Creating synergies between Skateistan and Special Olympics’ amazing work with children with disabilities was just meant to happen. Considering the great achievements of this pilot project, we hope The Skateroom is able to turn this into a long term project and scale it up in order to empower more children with disabilities around the world through skateboarding,” says Charles-Antoine Bodson, Founder and CEO of The Skateroom.
Mbali Mthethwa, Skateistan South Africa’s General Manager, was equally pleased with the partnership saying, “We strive to reach children who are often left out of sporting and educational activities, so we were really delighted to partner with Special Olympics South Africa to provide skateboarding and creative education to some of their athletes.
The students have made incredible progress and are living proof that skateboarding really is for everybody. We’re hugely grateful to The Skateroom and Special Olympics South Africa for helping to make this project possible.”
About the successful programme and event, Smith said, “We are so grateful to The Skateroom and the Van Gogh museum for initiating this incredible pilot, and we can’t wait to see how we can further grow this sport in Special Olympics South Africa.”
Pics: Gabrielle Ozynski