What if someone told you you could change the world by skateboarding? Would you be stoked? That's the idea behind Stoked Mentoring, a "non-profit action sports organization with the mission of developing Successful Teens with Opportunity, Knowledge, Experience, and Determination". Steve Larosiliere, Founder and Executive Director of Stoked, created the organization to benefit at risk youth through mentoring, coaching, and action sports. Paired with positive role models, teens learn life skills such as communication, responsibility, how to overcome their fears through sports like skate boarding, snowboarding, and surfing.
The idea started in 2004 on a snowboarding trip to British Coumbia while Steve was working at another mentoring program. "A thought came to mind, 'I should take the kids I mentor here. If they saw how beautiful these mountains are they would lose their mind.'"
From that thought, Steve started making his vision a reality by penning down his ideas and sharing it with people--"putting it out into the universe. I almost feel like any dream needs to start with a name, a logo, and a one sheet. You also need people to believe in you. So as you're talking to everyone and showing them your one sheet and logo, they can figure out ways to help out." Two of the most important pieces of advice; a book and a name. "One of our early supporters gave me a book, "How to Run a Non-profit in the 21st Century" and she put me in touch with a non-profit mentor, Lou Lagatta. Lou gave me all the necessary information to get my program off the ground. He gave me the confidence I needed to succeed."
The organization has since grown to help hundreds of kids from New York and now Los Angeles and grown into collaborations with everyone from Zoo York to ESPN. And it's no wonder, with Stoked's creative take on the concepts of both mentoring (menor/mentee studying and going to get pizza once a month) and counterculture (that thing your mother always told you to stay away from). The unique questions that emerge from the new model -- "What if you take a mentoring relationship out of their environment, teach them a challenging, non traditional sport and relate it to their life?" What would happen to that relationship? What would happen if you have 30 people cheering for you as you ride your first wave? What if you knew that no matter how many times you fall, you would always get back up to succeed?
The answer is a unique opportunity to do a ton of good through a nontraditional (not to mention rad) way to give back. But at its base, the need is still for adults stepping up and wanting to get involved long term in the development of talent within our young people. "The kids today simply need more adults in their life who care." And for Steve it's the desire to create a safe and positive environment for all kids that keeps him going. "The kids we work with are amazing. They want more out of life. They're daring, courageous, trusting and outspoken. They certainly do not carry these qualities when they first come to us, so to see them evolve physically, mentally, and emotionally right before your eyes is such a wonderful feeling."
Four years in, and in a business of "heart work", staying motivated is something Steve has to work at. But inspiration comes from everything from articles, to people, to simply having fun skateboarding through NY or LA. "I learned that people don't always do things for money. They do things because it makes them feel good. People want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves as well. They want to be around a safe, healthy, positive community of like-minded people."
"My advice to someone who aspires to change the world is... just start."
Check out Stoked's next fundraiser Good Wood -- "Give Back". An auction-cum-party at 3rd Ward art gallery, 50 artists will be auctioning off one-of-a-kind custom skate decks with proceeds going to benefit Stoked's programs. www.3rdward.com
Jerri Chou is the Editor of All Day Buffet, a website and organization that brings social causes and the creative community together. It's a simple idea: Inspire Action. Change the world. Have Fun. Because doing good shouldn't feel like a chore visit http://www.alldaybuffet.org