A local nonprofit will host a free skateboarding clinic for children and teens with special needs at Brentwood Skate Park, Sunday, Nov. 3, from 9:30 a.m. to noon.
The clinic is hosted by Be Exceptional, which was founded by Lynda Green in 2007 as a way to combine her passions in dance and working with individuals with special needs. The program has evolved to hold various classes in dance, fitness and cheerleading at its location at Elite Dance Studio at 304 G St. in downtown Antioch. The nonprofit is now tackling skateboarding.
“I have been teaching dance to both typical and children with special needs for almost 30 years now,” Green said. “I have helped with many sports for students with special needs, such as basketball, swimming, bowling and skateboarding ... Skateboarding is something that can help the kids socially and physically. I have noticed that the kids enjoy the challenge of learning and trying new things.”
Skate Director Joey Ogo says they have worked with other groups in the past — like The A.skate Foundation, an organization that brings skateboard clinics to people on the autism spectrum — but this event is the first in the name of Be Exceptional.
Ogo has been skateboarding for decades and enjoys sharing his love of skating with others.
Our goal is just to provide the aspects of skateboarding that I've seen help me provide that for people with special needs,” he said. “It also integrates with other people, like the volunteers.”
Be Exceptional events utilize a buddy system, pairing volunteers with participants depending on their experience and need.
Many individuals on the Be Exceptional staff have a background in social work, like Ogo, or have experience otherwise working with kids and teens with special needs.
“We also will have people just being introduced to working with that population,” Ogo said. “And it's always great to see, on both sides, just the joy it brings.”
Ultimately, the goal of these clinics is about connection and allowing individuals within special needs communities to participate, but Ogo speaks highly of the benefits of physical activities like skateboarding.
“Skateboarding is known to ‘heal the soul,’” he said. “Skateboarding offers components similar to occupational therapy, focusing on motor, vestibular and proprioceptive skills. In addition, our program allows these children to be social on their own terms.”
The clinic is usually aimed toward children and teens from ages 10 to 18, but Ogo says “no child is too young and no individual is too old to participate.”
At the skate clinic, there will also be downtime for participants to relax and enjoy art. Be Exceptional is also looking for volunteers for the event — people who have a basic understanding of skateboarding and the balance it takes — but no extensive experience is necessary.
“You're really just there to guide,” Ogo said. “What we're looking for is people who are willing to connect with the kids.”
The goal is to have 40 participants, 40 volunteers and 15 non-skate volunteers to help at the art station and with breaks. To sign up to volunteer, visit www.bit.ly/be_volunteer.
For participants, closed-toe athletic footwear is recommended. Helmets, pads and skateboards will be available for use, but if participants have their own, they should bring them. To register to participate, visit www.bit.ly/be_participant.