This Nonprofit Is Making Thousands of Kids Happy, One Skateboard at a Time

A boy holds a skateboard
Kayden Batson, 4, carries his first skateboard during a skateboard giveaway at the GRAYDI Center in Largo, Fla., on Dec. 11, 2018. Boards for Bros, a non-profit that builds and gives away skateboards to children who cannot afford them, put on the event. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Kayden Batson kept asking his great-grandmother when he could pick out his very first skateboard.

His great-grandmother showed him two skateboards, and the 4-year-old picked the one with the rainbow sticker. The board was taller than he was, and he didn’t quite have the hang of riding it yet, but that didn’t matter – the skateboard was his and he loved it.

“I love it,” said Debra Griffen, Kayden’s 65-year-old great-grandmother. “I’ve never seen him this happy.”

Griffen planned to put the skateboard up until Christmas morning.

“This is Christmas,” she said.

Griffen threw her back out on the job and relies on an $800-a-month disability check to support herself and Kayden. With her limited income, buying a skateboard for her great-grandson would be too expensive.

Kayden would have just done without presents this year if it wasn’t for Boards for Bros.

What Is Boards for Bros?

A teenager builds a skateboard
Jeremiah Van-Vaerenbergh, 13, installs the trucks and wheels on a deck during the Vans Board Drive Build and Distribution at the Skatepark of Tampa on Sept. 29, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

The Skatepark of Tampa, an iconic Florida skatepark whose fans include Tony Hawk and Lil Wayne, started Boards for Bros as its nonprofit charity in 2006.

Boards for Bros is on a mission to make sure that all kids who want to own a nice skateboard can get one – for free.

“We help those kids who don’t want to play a team sport. We help the teenager in a foster care situation that can’t take a bike with them when they get shuffled from group home to home,” said Michelle Box, the executive director of Boards for Bros.

The nonprofit collects new and used skateboard equipment and cash donations throughout the year to build and distribute as many skateboards as possible to underserved communities.

It relies on volunteers and partnerships with other nonprofits and youth outreach programs to reach underprivileged and at-risk youths, especially during the holidays. Those volunteers give skateboarding demos and work with the kids to decorate their boards at community distribution events.

It’s not unusual for them to roll up to a local skatepark and hand out 100 skateboards to kids in need.

In 2018, Boards for Bros handed out more than 3,000 skateboards, double what they doled out in 2017.

Boards for Bros Holiday Giveaways

A boy rides a skateboard up a ramp
Roberto Pantoja, a youth specialist with the GRAYDI Center, helps Kameron Bryant, 2, ride his skateboard at the center in Largo, Fla., on Dec. 11, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

For Tonya Griffin, whose 2-year-old son Kameron Bryant also received a new skateboard at the Christmas distribution event in Largo, Florida, a free skateboard meant a little more financial wiggle room during the holidays.

She has to buy presents for three children on a $250 budget.  

“We’re stretching what we already have to pay the bills on top of giving the kids gifts,” she said. “It just helps us.”

The average cost for a nice skateboard setup including trucks, bearing, wheels, deck and grip tape is between $100 and $175, according to Ashley Rey, a Board for Bros volunteer who helped with the Christmas distribution.

Boards for Bros also gave out free skate shoes that day and helmets on another, which saves those caregivers even more money.

Skateboard Access for All

The essential components of a skateboard include the (clockwise from top left) trucks, deck, wheels and helmets. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Boards for Bros’ mission is to break down the economic barriers so all kids have access to skateparks, not just the ones who can afford it.

“Most parks do not have rental equipment, so if a kid doesn’t have equipment, they can’t use the skateboard park,” Box said. “We just want to bridge that gap.”

Boards for Bros has year-round chapters in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and North Carolina, plus it holds sponsored events in Texas and Colorado. It has also sent skateboards to Bangladesh, Cuba and Honduras.

“We impact the lives of the kids who get those skateboards,” Box said. “Nobody can dispute the long-term impact it has on the kids and the families to be able to put down their phone and skate.”

And if the kids outgrow the skateboard? Box asks them to promise to pass it to another kid who is interested in skateboarding.

How to Get a Free Skateboard

Tonya Griffin kisses the hand of her son, 2-year-old Kameron Bryant after he received a free skateboard. “During the holidays, we still have bills. We’re stretching what we already have. This just helps us,” Griffin said. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

While Box said Boards for Bros consider requests for skateboards on a case-by-case basis, especially in the Tampa Bay region, the best way to get your kid a skateboard is to ask their after-school program to reach out to Boards for Bros to set up an event.

If you’re interested in donating or participating in the Boards for Bros’ free skateboard program, check out boards4bros.org.

Not everybody who asks for a skateboard gets one, but the organization tries to work with as many people as possible because it believes every kid’s life is better with wheels.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Read her full bio here or say hi on Twitter @StephBolling

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