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Parent Article: Dorchester Diva - Donna Summer - Build a Memorial! Roller Disco Tribute - City Hall 18 July 6-10pm
15 Jul 2014
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Passing the boards: Skaters of all skill levels welcome at Fitchburg park's summer camp

FITCHBURG -- Whether they want to do a varial heel flip, an ollie or simply ride a ramp, children of all skating abilities and experience levels are invited to the annual skateboard camp at Ryan C. Joubert Memorial Skate Park. The skate park was filled with children Monday morning as the second week of the three-week summer program began. They were whizzing up and down ramps on their skateboards and attempting tricks shown to them by instructors.

The camp began seven years ago in the park named after a 16-year-old Fitchburg High School student and skateboarding enthusiast who was killed in a 2000 car accident. The park, modeled after one Ryan was designing for a class, was opened in his memory three years later on his birthday, June 2, according to his mother, Patricia Joubert, and even professional skateboarder Tony Hawk's charitable foundation had a hand in making it possible.

"When the park was opened, there were a lot of kids that could skateboard and a lot of kids that couldn't," Joubert said. "As a board, we thought it might be good opportunity to teach the kids in a very nonjudgmental situation so they could learn." The nonprofit Ryan C. Joubert Memorial Foundation Inc. raises money each year to maintain and enhance the park, and donates funds to the city's Parks and Recreation Department to hire instructors for the camp, she said. Many of the instructors come from the local Eastern Boarder store in Leominster.

In addition to support from the city and community, Joubert said IC Federal Credit Union and Rollstone Bank & Trust have been great contributors, especially for the annual helmet drive that allows the foundation to give free helmets to children in need. One of Ryan's best friends, Jose Colon, who now works in Boston as a graphic designer, has designed T-shirts for campers each year since the camp began.

Kids can sign up in advance for the free lessons, Joubert said, or they can simply drop in whatever days they want during the camp, which runs Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to noon, through July 24 at the skate park, located within Parkhill Park. Lisa Hansen of Fitchburg was at the park with her three sons Monday morning. She said her middle son, Joseph, 10, has been using the park for some time but didn't know about the camp until this year.

"We must clock lots of hours a week here," Hansen said. "This is a very great park." Joseph said he hadn't known how to go down ramps until coming to the camp, and now he has moved on to learning other moves like "fakies" and "ollies."

"If you ask a counselor what you want to learn, they teach you," he said. Connor Lane, 15, of Lancaster said he went to camp as a camper from age 8 to 12, and jumped at the chance to be a counselor when he was asked this year by a friend at Eastern Boarder. "Being a camper at one time, I know what it's like and what the kids want to learn," he said. "It's one of the coolest feelings knowing that I got to come to this camp as a kid and then grow up to be one of the counselors."

Taylor Clark, 18, of Leominster said this year is his third as a counselor. He said he hadn't come as a camper, but had friends who had previously been counselors, and this park was the first he ever skated at 10 years ago. "I teach them everything from their first time riding to advanced tricks on any of the ramps here," Clark said. "Anything they want to learn, pretty much."

He said he loves to see the kids learn and get hooked on the sport, and that Eastern Boarder "just does so much for the skate scene around here." Cindy Donelan of Fitchburg said the instructors work well with children of all levels of experience and ability. "I'm very grateful we have this opportunity for our kids, for the children to utilize the facility and get some instruction," she said.

Her son, Cole, 10, who has special needs, has been coming to the camp for four years. She said he has a genetic condition called Williams syndrome as well as arthritis, and the counselors tailor instruction to his ability. "They've done a fabulous job with him, they really have," Donelan said. "It's given him an opportunity to stay active and (do) something that he really likes to do." Cole said he wasn't very good at skateboarding at first, but he does better now because of the camp. "It makes me learn different things," he said.

Kyle Hesselton, 12, said he comes all the way to Fitchburg from Leicester because it's the best skate park around. "I love this park," he said. Kyle said he learned about the park through his friend, Eamon Durkan, 11, of Leominster. Eamon said this year is his second as a camper. "It was just so fun," he said. "All the instructors taught me all these tricks, and I thought if I came back, then it may be even more fun and I would get even better."

For more information or to donate to the skate park, visit Updates can also be found in the group titled "Ryan C. Joubert Memorial Skatepark" on Facebook.