On July 14, 2018 groups of young women in Eugene, Oregon, and partner organizations across the globe, came together to skate, provide aid to the homeless, empower women, and combat bullying. They are led by Skate Rising, an offshoot of Exposure Skate, a nonprofit hoping to empower women through skateboarding.
Skate Rising holds monthly events to aid children in need in Encinitas, California and Phoenix, Arizona, but the group decided to go mobile leading up to International Service Day in order to help address the homelessness epidemic that has crept across the West Coast during the last few years. PBS reported in 2017 that “the homeless population in California, Oregon, and Washington had grown by 14 percent in the last two years.” Skate Rising’s founder, Calli Kelsay, confirmed the direness of homelessness on the west coast, citing the company’s recent outreach to San Diego, California as the event that sparked the idea for the tour. Kelsay states, “The amount of people living on the streets really impacted me…it really opened my eyes to the needs that are out there. I knew we had to do something: that we could make a bigger impact.” Thus, the Feed the Need Tour, a Skate Rising outreach event, was born.
The tour began in Scotts Valley, California on July 4th and worked its way North, making stops in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Napa, California along the way. At each event, participants began by signing a “commitment to kindness” that encourages children to recognize and combat bullying. They then partook in a skate clinic and helped to assemble care packages for the homeless. According to Kelsay, these care packages included toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottles of water, non-perishable snacks, and socks. Kelsay, her team, and the tour’s participants well surpassed Skate Rising’s original goal of putting together one thousand care packages. They nearly doubled that number with the inclusion of their international partner organizations’ events.
Apart from aiding the homeless through the Feed the Need Tour, Skate Rising aims to empower women through the inherent lessons that come from skateboarding as a sport. Kelsay mentions how she was inspired by these lessons and their effect on her own two daughters, stating, “They fell so many times and made the choice to get back up. This teaches perseverance like nothing else…The act of skateboarding also gave them a confidence within themselves that I had not seen in other sports.” She finds these lessons applicable to her own life as well, and wishes she had learned them at the age her daughters, and the tour’s participants, have.
The Feed the Need Tour culminated in Eugene, Oregon on International Service Day. Likeminded groups held events in Florida, Australia, and Canada, in addition to Skate Rising’s two headquarters in Encinitas, California and Phoenix, Arizona. Kelsay said that she has received many offers for partnership for International Service Day in the future, as well responses on social media networks that request the formation of smaller events in other communities. She encourages all those people who would like to end bullying, empower women, and help the homeless to “Reach out, be kind, live by example, and recognize that we are all human.”