Youth earn skateboards for reading

Skate Unity collaborates with
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota


SAUK RAPIDS – In 2003, Sauk Rapids resident Mike Thienes set out to raise awareness and money for a skatepark in St. Cloud through an event called Skate Unity.
His skatepark dream became a reality when Skate Plaza at Heritage Park opened in 2010.
Skate Unity did not end there.
Eighteen years later, the event continues to raise money to connect local people with the popular sport.
“The first fundraiser was so fun we wanted to keep it going,” Thienes said.
Skate Unity fundraisers have supported several skateboarding initiatives in the area. In addition to supporting skateparks, Skate Unity has raised money to purchase skateboards for youth and to provide free lessons at skate camps.
Each year, funds are raised through an art show and silent auction featuring the work of central Minnesota artists. The event gives artists the opportunity to showcase their skills while making a difference.
“The most rewarding thing about Skate Unity is working with local artists to give back to youth in our community,” Thienes said.
This year’s Skate Unity event featured the work of 15 artists who created custom artwork on blank skateboard decks. Organized in partnership with The Youth Shelter Supply and Bad Habit Brewing Company, the event was scheduled for 2020 but was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The skateboard artwork was displayed at Bad Habit Brewing Company in St. Joseph in February and put up for sale. An online auction of the 15 skateboards raised $3,000 – enough to purchase 25 skateboards for youth from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota.
This was the third time Skate Unity has provided skateboards to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota. It is an organization Thienes is proud to support.
“We want to encourage the next generation of youth to get outside, stay active and enjoy this great sport,” said Thienes, an avid skateboarder with 23 years of experience working in skateboard retail. “I have seen skateboarding positively change kids’ lives so many times.”
The 25 youth earned their skateboards through participation in Summer Brain Gain, a program designed to prevent summer learning loss. Each youth earned points toward their skateboard by reading independently and aloud to younger members.
    Thienes began skateboarding in 1986 at the age of 10.
“I always enjoyed it because of the individual aspect of skateboarding, the skateboard community and artistic expression,” he said.
Thienes said skateboarding is a great physical activity that helps people get away from the stresses of life, learn new tricks and hang out with others in a non-team fashion.
CentraCare Health’s Project BrainSafe provided each youth with a helmet. The community-wide collaboration includes medical providers, academic institutions, athletic programs, community partners and patient advocates who are committed to improving the standard of care for concussions.
“We are so thankful to Skate Unity and Project BrainSafe for providing a quality incentive program to support the academic success of youth,” said Christine Kustelski, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Minnesota. “This opportunity made our youth excited to accomplish their summer reading goals. Now, they are fueled to not only continue to develop their literacy skills but to also lead active, healthy lifestyles.”