Skate Jam returns Aug. 27 to raise money for the Athens Skate Park and programming for at-risk youth

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Skate Jam returns to the Athens Skate Park (701 E. State St.) Saturday, August 27 to raise funds for both the park itself and the free programming for at-risk youth provided by the Sojourners Care Network’s Resiliency Center.

The inaugural Athens Skate Jam took place in October 2021 after a concerned group of community members joined forces with Sojourner’s in the hopes of raising funds for several necessary repairs and upgrades to the park, which was built by the City of Athens in 2003.

Skate Jam 2021 ultimately raised $6,400 to split between the Skate Park Fund and Sojourner’s, and an additional fundraising event at the Devil’s Kettle in April brought in another $4,200 for the two.

Skate Jam and the affiliated fundraising events have been the work of organizers who believe the Athens Skate Park provides a much-needed physical recreational alternative for young people who either aren’t interested in or can’t afford to take part in the kinds of organized athletics often offered to young people by public high schools.

Additionally, event organizers Emmett Mascha and Charlie Miltner said skate parks provide a safe place for people of all ages to develop not only confidence boosting physical skills, but also to develop a sense of community and culture among other skaters.

“At a skate park you get exposed to a lot more than just skateboarding,” Mascha said, crediting skate parks with introducing him to some of his closest friends and influencing everything from his taste in music as a young person to the way he dressed.

The flyer for Skate Jam 2022. The flyer depicts a cartoon scene of a skate park. Text on the flyer reads as follows: Skate Jam Aug. 27 12 - 9 2022 Athens Skate Park. A community fundraiser for the Athens Skate Park and Sojourners youth programming. Live music from Milk Bath, Tetnis, Harlequins, Peachfuzz, Wheels On Fire, and Big Fat Head. Events include demos, contests, free skate, street course, local food, drink, and art. Skate vendors. Follow @skatejamathens. After party at The Union with DANA, The Sueves, Actual Form.

“The Athens Skate Park provides to a whole group of youth who aren’t really seen or heard what you might call a safe space, a place where they can feel accepted,” Miltner said. “Skate culture has always socially provided a place for people who don’t fit into mainstream culture, and it’s a big deal to have a skate park as spacious and nice as the Athens Skate Park.”

Mascha said the Athens Skate Park is one of the only safe places for people to skateboard in our region, and for that reason it gets a lot of traffic. As a result of both the high traffic and its age, the park has sustained wear and tear over the years.

“The skateboarding community in Athens took it upon themselves to make small repairs to the park – like using Bondo [a quick acting, durable, non-shrinking two-part putty compound] to fix small things here and there or bring in a power washer to remove graffiti – but there are lots of more costly things the Athens Skate Park needs that we couldn’t provide,” Mascha said.

Mascha and Miltner said Skate Jam 2021 signified a major shift in the larger community’s attitude towards repairing and maintaining the park.

“Skate Jam has served as the organizing force to kind of bring together the skateboarding community with the resources from the City that we need to repair and update the park,” he said. “Skate Jam has really been an effective way to kind of let those two parties work together and get everyone in action.”

Andrea Baird is the manager of Sojourner’s Care Network’s Resiliency Center in Athens. The Resiliency Center provides a variety of free services to youth aged 14 to 21, ranging from access to shower and laundry facilities to programming focused on developing life skills such as cooking, resume building, and budgeting.

“Athens provides lots of programming for youth, but oftentimes it’s the kind of programming that isn’t accessible to the youth we serve,” said Baird. “When it came to organizing the first Skate Jam, it became our mission to simultaneously raise money to help the youth in Athens and to preserve the Athens Skate Park, to show the community how important both of things are, and how much they intertwine.”

The organizers said finding support for Skate Jam has not been difficult.

“Last year was made possible by local Athens businesses who trusted us – they put their faith in us and showed it with all types of donations,” Mascha said. “We had support in a thousand different ways last year, and this year it feels like we have even more support since everyone saw last year’s event succeed.”

Skate Jam 2022 takes place 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, August 27 at the Athens Skate Park. The event will include a variety of skating events and contests including demonstrations, free skate, and more; plus live music from Peachfuzz, Tetnis, Milk Bath, Harlequins, Big Fat Head, and Wheels On Fire. The event will also feature local food and art vendors.

Skate Jam 2022 will be followed by an afterparty show at The Union (18 W. Union St.) featuring sets from DANA, The Sueves, and Actual Form