Six years ago, Ed Womble participated in one of the most rewarding events of his life: handing out free skateboards to underprivileged children in Tampa, Fla.
Womble, 51, is a former professional skateboarder and has lived off U.S. 21 in Mooresville for about 13 months. Womble moved to Mooresville from Tampa due a job transfer with his company, Wright Line, and Womble still actively skates.
He and fellow skateboarders Paul Schmitt and Ryan Clements came up with the idea to hand out free skateboards to children while they were skating at the Bro Bowl, which Womble said is the longest open free skateboard park in the United States.
The Bro Bowl is located in an economically depressed area of downtown Tampa, and there were always children outside watching them skate. One member of the trio suggested they give the kids skateboards of their own; the boards would be old skateboards turned in by skateboarders who were getting new ones.
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Womble and his friends thought they could refurbish and repurpose the used skateboards and donate them.
"We had a meeting a couple of days later, over Thanksgiving," said Womble. "Within 30 days I was wearing a Santa outfit and gave away 45 new boards. It was a complete stoke."
That is how Boards for Bros was born.
Womble's goal now is to expand Boards for Bros to the Mooresville community. He has teamed with Elizabeth and Steve Davis, owners of Embassy Board Shop on Main Street in downtown Mooresville, to help.
This year, Womble plans to don the Santa suit again and go to some Mooresville neighborhoods to hand out the skateboards. Additionally, each child who receives a skateboard will get a short demonstration on how to skate.
Womble is still receiving donations from individuals and skateboard companies to put together boards for this year. So far, Boards for Bros has about 40 skateboards built and plans on having 100 boards to give away.
The skaters who give their old boards to the project, he said, learn the rewards of donating for a good cause.
Among the kids who help Boards for Bros are friends of the Davises on the Embassy Board Shop team and other local skaters who have heard about Womble's efforts.
Womble has just one rule, though: You cannot help give away skateboards if you did not help to put them together.
The Boards for Bros mission statement says, "Boards for Bros ... can help children learn additional discipline, respect and self-perseverance." But some people assume skaters don't have those qualities.
The biggest misconception about skaters, said Womble, is that people don't understand how hard someone has to work to be good at skateboarding. He said he believes that if skateboarding was validated by society, it could defuse some skaters' surliness.
"They (kids receiving the new boards) might learn that if you work hard at something, you can get better, and the kids that help out also learn how to contribute," said Womble.