Brett Williams, a 2005 graduate of Cheltenham High School, grew up in La Mott skateboarding at Wall Park.
“I was there on their opening day roughly 20 years ago and still frequent there,” Brett said. “I always wanted to have a skate park as a child and as an adolescent.”
Thanks to Skate the Foundry, a product of Brett’s vision, today’s Cheltenham youth have exactly that. The facility houses a a skate shop and indoor skating area, and is open to all ages: young, old, and in between.
Skate the Foundry’s Elkins Park location began in 2021 as an expansion of a West Philly location that’s been going strong since 2016. The organization’s main goal, he says, is to provide skateboarding lessons to children around town.
“We were doing outdoor programs at Wall Park. We had a partnership with Cheltenham Township for a summer camp, and we realized how many kids were in the community. I was blown away by how many kids were walking around the area,” he said.
“There were so many children, and the biggest thing I noticed was that there so many girls and little kids that wanted to skate, but they were too afraid to go into the skate park. They were intimidated by it, so they didn’t have a chance to try. That’s the reason we exist. That image and feeling really stuck with me. That’s when I realized that this area needs a Skate the Foundry,” Brett said.
Since its inception, the program has grown to accommodate hundreds of kids from the neighborhood, most of whom are ages 5 to 13. Programming for teens, dubbed “open trainings” with loose instruction from skateboarding gurus, takes place in the evenings. There are after-school clubs to burn off steam and have a snack. There are birthday parties, events, and visits from professional skateboarders.
An in-facility skate shop selling boards, safety equipment, apparel, and accessories helps prepare novices and provides necessary gear for regulars interested in competing.
“For those who know how to skateboard already, they can take their skills to the next level. We get them involved in state-wide competitions,” he said.
Skate the Foundry’s adult programs have gained traction as well.
“Our adult classes started out from a parent wanting to skate with her daughter. She asked, and that’s exactly what we did. It was a big hit and there were many adults that wanted to learn how to skateboard. That’s turned into eight-week classes,” Brett said.
Private lessons tend to be the Foundry’s most popular offering, and safety tips combined with a welcoming atmosphere are what keeps kids coming back for more.
“We really focus on safety: learning how to fall and feeling comfortable to be yourself. We try to have an inclusive environment. Some of our instructors are trained teachers. Our rules are called ‘agreements,’ and we’ll go over those for our newcomers,” he said. “We have teaching methods that prevent you from falling. We teach the safest way possible, which tends to be the biggest deterrent from trying it.”
With the indefinite closure of the La Mott Community Center, Skate the Foundry has provided a vital service for Cheltenham.
“In a day and age where screen time is an issue for kids, I think skateboarding is a great outlet. We tend to draw a lot of video gamers because of the similarities. There’s interaction but it’s also independent. You feed off of everyone’s energy at the park. I think skateboarding could help kids be active, outside, and try something new. It teaches you to overcome fear and self-doubt and then introduces you to other people.”
For more on Skate the Foundry’s 120 Yorktown Plaza location, you can visit their website and their Facebook page.
Check out this video of the facility in action:
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