MIDLAND PARK, N.J. — Hawthorne native Steven Wolfe lays out his three core beliefs to every skateboarder who comes to his Midland Park skatepark:
1. Kids need more places to skate;
2. Skateboarders are influential;
3. Faith is part of life.
These beliefs form the heart of "Solid Foundation," a non-profit organization serving young people who don't participate in traditional sports or after school activities
"People think skateboarders are hooligans who destroy property and are disrespectful, but that is really not the case," Wolfe, 36, told Daily Voice. "Most of these kids just want to skate.
"We want to provide them that opportunity and be a positive influence."
Wolfe discovered the positive power of skateboarding at 13, when he began attending youth group at Wyckoff Baptist Church. A youth group volunteer, a 21-year-old named Jonathan Spoelstra, didn't feel a strong connection with most other students at youth group until Wolfe and his skateboarding friends got involved.
"He told me he skated too, and there was this instant connection," Wolfe said. "We started skateboarding together and we became close friends.
"He helped me with the challenges of being a teenager."
Four years later, Wolfe and some friends started Solid Foundation. In 2002, he opened Solid Foundation Skatepark in Midland Park.
After seven years of running the skatepark, Wolfe began to see a healthy mix of young and old skaters sharing the grounds. It made him think of Spoelstra.
"The older skaters have so much to offer the younger skaters," Wolfe said. "I wanted to foster that connection."
Wolfe started rounding up the high school-aged skaters and taking them on road trips that featured skating, camping and conversation.
"That is where we start to show them that they can make a difference in the life of the younger kids," Wolfe said. "We show them how fun it is to pay it forward."
Today Solid Foundation provides these big brother relationships for over 100 skaters. The organization also takes skaters on mission trips to feed the homeless in New York City or help other skating organizations in other parts of the country.
In September, Solid Foundation hopes to move to a 2,000 square foot warehouse in Fair Lawn that will feature a skate park, art studio and student lounge.
The mission will remain the same.
"The relationships we help create mean everything," Wolfe said. "Hopefully when the younger guys grow up they will do the same for the next generation of kids and the cycle will continue."
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