Inclusion in action: Skateistan and Special Olympics South Africa team up!

Anyone who has been following Skateistan’s work will know that we are firm believers that skateboarding is for everybody. Inclusion is one of our core values and we work proactively to reach children who are often excluded from sporting and educational activities. So we were super excited last year, when an opportunity came up for us to work with Special Olympics South Africa and reach a group of children with intellectual disabilities. 

The partnership came as a result of our long-standing relationship with The Skateroom. The good folks there have been supporting Skateistan for years, through the sale of their one-of-a-kind art edition skate decks. They put us in touch with Special Olympics South Africa and we were able to build a unique partnership that involved an adapted version of our Skate and Create program.

20 students from Special Olympics South Africa joined the program, which combines skateboarding with creative education. Special Olympics South Africa provided amazing training for our educators on understanding and working with the varying needs of the students.

Right from day one, the students were super keen to get involved and give everything a try, even if they were nervous about skateboarding. Our educators worked closely with each of them, getting to know their needs and their individual strengths so they could bring out the best in each and every student. Our staff were amazed by the students’ willingness to learn and how quickly their skateboarding skills developed.

"For others sport is normally a competitive thing but not for these guys. They spent a lot of their time practicing hard and being each other’s support structure and through that they changed my life and the attitude I had before. It has been an honor to work with them and I am proud of the improvements they made individually."
TJ, Skateistan Educator

Week by week, the students built up their skills, both in the skatepark and the classroom. They spent time learning to balance and push, having fun holding hands with the educators so they could try out the ramps.

"I had lots of fun and loved everything we did. I learnt a lot. The art that we did was very helpful. I loved the coaches very much because they helped me a lot and they were very patient with me. Thank you to everyone."
Vanessa*, Special Olympics student

At the end of their 14 week program, we held an event at the Skate School to celebrate their hard work and achievement. This was like a mini graduation ceremony and students were stoked to receive medals for their participation, presented by actor, presenter and basketball promoter Sbu Shongwe, to recognize the progress they had made and the hard work they had put in. DJ Jules and rapper Steero performed at the event and the students had the chance to see 11 year old pro skater Ashton Banwell show off his tricks. Best of all, the students’ parents were invited to attend and see just how much their kids had achieved. There was an amazing feeling at the skatepark, with parents, staff and students sharing a sense of pride.

"Danny* has gained so much confidence in himself after he had told us about the skating program. He also has grown so much personally. We as a family were very thrilled and excited when we saw him skate. We definitely want him to continue with skating and also join other Special Olympics activities."
Douglas, student's family member

Happily, it doesn’t end there. This pilot project, funded by The Skateroom, was such a great success that we’ve decided to keep it going! The students will be returning this month to Skateistan to carry on with the next stage of an adapted Skate and Create program. One of their first sessions will be an art session to create their own awesome art on a set of decks donated by The Skateroom. Everyone is so excited to keep this awesome project going and to see it grow in the future. Here’s what Kopano, one of our educators, had to say: 

"Special Olympics South Africa athletes have energy and enthusiasm. They have fun no matter what. Skateboarding can be difficult if you think about it too much. It is amazing what the power of sports can do to a person’s life. I cannot wait for the new year so we continue with more sessions."
Kopano, Skateistan Educator

If you believe that skateboarding is for everybody, please consider making a one-off donation today so we can keep expanding our programs to reach more children like our Special Olympics students. We'd like to say a huge thank you to Special Olympics South Africa and The Skateroom for being such incredible partners. 

*All student names have been changed in accordance with Skateistan's Child Protection Policy.