Published March 19, 2019
Volume 3, Number 3

Dragon Skate Camp Teaches Special Needs

Youth to Skateboard

By Hacienda Pulse Staff Writer
Dragon Skate Camp is a place for special needs youth to learn to skateboard in a safe, fun, and inclusive environment. It was founded in early 2017 by brothers and fellow Granada High School students Thomas and James Young, who live in Livermore. Since its founding, Dragon Skate has provided skateboarding lessons and fun times to more than 70 families with more than 300 hours of lessons over the course of the camps.

“Dragon Skate is special because it is a camp run by teenage volunteers for kids with special needs,” says Thomas. “We have a lot of fun at each camp.”

James leads the programs part of the camp while Thomas manages the operations. Several participants have attended camps repeatedly and shown great improvement over time, say the founders. But they do not measure the success of the camp by the skating accomplishments of the participants. For them, the camp is much more about social interaction and friendships among participants than actual skating ability.

“When we first started, our main goal was to teach special needs kids to skateboard,” says James. “But what we quickly learned in the first camp was that our revised goal was to help participants form friendships while learning to skate. Over the past two years many friendships have been formed and continue to grow. We believe the camps benefit the instructors as much as the students.”

The community has responded enthusiastically. “This has been the most inspiring conception I've had the privilege of witnessing or have gotten to participate in all of my life,” notes one fan on the Dragon Skate Facebook page. “James, Thomas, and their family have brought the most amazing gift to the community.  Watching children offer their time to those who need it is special on a level I can't put into words. I've heard conversations between the instructors and their students that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. It makes the future look promising for our younger generations.”

Children between 6 and 17 with a range of special needs, including Down syndrome and autism, were invited to participate in the first camp, according to the East Bay Times. Skilled skaters who were friends of the founders volunteered as teachers. Since then the camps have been funded by sponsorships through The Taylor Family Foundation, Street Science Skate Shop, Mony Nop Real Estate, and GoFundMe.

As the brothers told the East Bay Times, they were raised in a family that believes in volunteering. Initially they volunteered with their dad for the Taylor Family Foundation. After a few years, their parents suggested the idea for Dragon Skate Camp, which is built on the different skills of the two brothers.

Of the nine camps held so far, eight have been in Livermore and one in Reno. Registration for Dragon Skate Spring Camp 2019 on April 2, 3, and 4 at the Livermore Skate Park is now open. Participation is free but spaces are limited, so those interested should register early. The next camp is scheduled for April 27 and 28; registrations are not yet open.

“We always need volunteer skaters, and they do not have to be great at skateboarding, they just need to be able to help out and be ready to have a good time,” says Thomas.

For more information about Dragon Skate Camp, please visit https://www.dragonskate.org or the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dragonskatecamp. Prospective volunteers should send an email to dragonskatecamp@gmail.com.