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Global Social Awareness

THE STORY – By Zack Schuler

Back in 2008, I took a trip to Ethiopia.  My wife and I were going to adopt a baby girl and prior to the process really getting started, I decided to take an “exploratory trip” to check out the country, the people, eat good food, and visit the orphanage where my daughter would be coming from.

While I made many good memories, I definitely made quite a few bad ones as well.  There were two that really stuck out, and both of them were with kids who simply did not have enough.  You see, many of the kids that I saw at this time were not running around playing- they were running around looking for something to eat.  On top of the obvious conviction one might have about the health and simple humanitarian issue as work here, these kids were going to have a very different life than I had just in terms of “being a kid.”

My weekends as a kid were pretty much spent on my skateboard.  All of my closet friends were skaters, and that’s just basically what we did when we weren’t in school.  In Ethiopia, I never saw a skateboard.

Fast forward to end of 2015, I was watching Anthony Bourdain on CNN.  He has the best job in the world, as he gets to travel, eat, drink and report on those three things.  Well, Anthony had an upcoming episode on Ethiopia so I had to tune in.  In the beginning of the segment Anthony was visiting with a man named Sean who was on a mission to place skateboards at the feet of every kid in Ethiopia!  Five minutes into this Episode I lost it.  While there are still massive amounts of poverty in Ethiopia, at least THESE KIDS were having the chance, if only for a few hours a day, to live the life of a kid on a skateboard, and simply “be a kid.”

Within minutes I jumped online to do a Google search, and came to quickly find out, that there were multiple skate projects going on in Ethiopia, and that Tony Hawk, perhaps the world’s most famous skater, was supporting a couple of them, including Sean’s.  Tony and I have a mutual friend, so I reached out to her and she made the introduction to Tony immediately, and within 30 minutes or so I had an email from Tony.

Tony Hawk has his own Foundation who supports all things skateboards, including Ethiopia.  It was a no-brainer for me to partner with him on a project.  He was immediately receptive to my wish to help those kids, and he immediately had the idea to produce, donate, and ship 200 boards to Ethiopia.

We are doing exactly that.  What is making it even slightly more special from my perspective is that every board has a picture of my daughter, and of course, a NINJIO logo.  The boards are currently in production and are expected to ship to Ethiopia sometime in April.  Once we’ve got additional footage, we will be sure to post it here.