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<p>Oakaolali Wong, 5, participates in Go Skate Day at Kamehameha Park in Kapaau last year. (FILE PHOTO)</p>

Oakaolali Wong, 5, participates in Go Skate Day at Kamehameha Park in Kapaau last year. (FILE PHOTO)

“Skateparks provide a place for local youth to meet, socialize, and develop friendships based on a common, healthy interest. The bonds of friendship based on a mutual interest in skating often last a lifetime,” said Roots Advocates for Youth founder and committee member Richey Riggs.

“Skateparks also provide for kids who aren’t attracted to traditional team sports a place to recreate and express themselves in an individual and athletic manner,” he said. “Getting kids, particularly at-risk kids, involved in a personal and esteem-building activity like skateboarding, helps them to build the confidence to do well in other aspects of their lives.”

For a long time, experts have agreed that youth who participate in alternative activities—like sports, recreation, camps, clubs, mentoring, and drop-in centers—have a much better chance of staying drug and alcohol-free. In addition to reduced adolescent alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and other drug use, the data backs up the theory that youth programs promote the following outcomes:

• Better development of life skills

• Greater communication skills

• Fewer psychosocial problems

• Decreased involvement in risky behaviors, such as drug use

• Decreased juvenile delinquency and violence

• Decreased risk of dropping out of school

• Increased academic achievement

• Increased safety

North Hawaii Drug-Free Coalition supports a variety of “youth solutions” that provide safe, positive activity for kids to enjoy in their extra time. North Kohala’s Roots Skatepark project, driven by Riggs and the Roots Advocates for Youth team, is an excellent example. Phase I of the park opened in 2010 and the development process continues forward with fundraising for Phase II.

To help in that effort, the group’s 5th annual “Go Skate Day Hawaii” takes place Saturday, June 22, in Kapaau. A wide-open, action-packed celebration for skaters of all levels and all ages, the event starts at 10:30 a.m. with closure of Akoni Pule Highway for the community-wide Skate Parade through town, from the Aloha gas station to Roots Skatepark in Kamehameha Park.

There, skaters, family and fans can enjoy lots of skate contests with great prizes, live music, ‘ono food booths and a special guest appearance by skateboard legend George W. Orton. For more information, visit www.skate4roots.wordpress.com or contact Richey Riggs at skate4roots@yahoo.com or 895-2909.

Riggs, a lifelong skater himself, has been involved with the North Kohala Skatepark since its inception, and can see it making a difference for a wide demographic of youth in his community.

“To be honest, skateboarding is so attractive that people from all over the world are drawn to its easy-going style. It is this sense of free-form activity that makes it so attractive and creates a sense of community,” said Riggs.

While skateboarding has become more and more mainstream, there is still perception by some communities that skateparks invite drug activity and underage drinking.

“In my experience, most kids are drug-free and are bummed if they have to quit skating or leave to avoid a negative atmosphere,” said Riggs. “Skateboarding, by its very nature, is an anti-drug.”

Other community skateboarding facilities in North Hawaii include Waimea Community Skate Park, created via partnerships between its grassroots organization and the County of Hawaii. Their website is www.youthhorizons.org. The much-anticipated Waikoloa Skate Park is completing Phase I construction now, for a scheduled opening Aug. 10. Their website is www.waikoloaskatepark.com. And, the Honokaa Skate Park team has a design set, permits in place, and is on the final push to break ground later this summer. Please call Jim Cain, 333-0457, for more information or to make donations.

The North Hawaii Drug-Free Coalition, a project of Five Mountains Hawaii, is a regional volunteer organization committed to developing strong, sustaining relationships for Healthy Communities Choosing to Live Drug Free. For more information, visit www.fivemountains.org/nhdfc.