Registration closed two weeks before A.Skate NJ [brought by the team behind Forth Union] held their second skateboarding clinic for children diagnosed with autism.
“Registration is closed and we have a waiting list of over 60 families,” they said via social media on Feb. 5. “We are working hard to be able to open up more spots for each session to accommodate families on the waiting list. Thank you everyone for your understanding and support.”
The post was an indication of not only the sport’s growing popularity but its benefits in helping a special group of groms with sensory processing and socialization.
On Sunday afternoon close to 90 children received one-on-one guidance from 100 volunteers during the 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. event held at Convention Hall.
Nancy Mastrola of Howell and her 14-year-old son Nicholas [below center] were first time visitors to the clinic. Mastrola said she didn’t know what to expect but hoped the clinic would help with her son’s sensory integration and movement. His diagnosis fall on the low functioning, non verbal end of the autism spectrum.
“This was better than I expected,” Mastrola said. “My son actually got on the board and did have some socialization with his buddy. He did a little bit more than I thought he was going to do.”
A.skate NJ is the local arm of the Birmingham, Ala., national foundation, which introduces autistic youth to skateboarding. Two local industry veterans, Derek Rinaldi and Lou Cuccaro, are the force behind the local nonprofit.
Many know Rinaldi and Cuccaro, not only for their national skateboarding standing, but as an integral part of the conversation to bring a free public skate park to Asbury Park. They were also instrumental in the planning and opening of Forth Union skate park at the Carousel, in partnership with boardwalk redeveloper Madison Marquette and aligning with the national Boards for Bros nonprofit, which refurbishes skateboards to distribute to kids who typically can’t afford the expense of a new board.
“Understanding that organized group sports are often not compatible with the special needs of children with autism, A.skate organizes clinics in a sensory appropriate environment that allows children to learn the sport of skateboarding at their own pace and essentially with their own rules,” Rinaldi said in written statement. “That is, they can scoot, stand or lay on the boards to move about.”
Behind the scenes support came from two of the industry’s biggest names – Vans and Volcom, the latter brought North Carolina’s Coley Martin to Asbury Park for the event. The national recognized skateboarder is also sponsored by Adidas. Local Jersey Shore eatery Surf Taco joined the national companies in offering giveaways throughout the day, and artist Eric Eckert donated some of his idrawmazes [below center] to tap into the kids artistic talents.
Also on hand were Rutgers University Respiratory Therapy Seniors Rosa Newkirk of New Brunswick, Harshal Patel, of Piscataway, and Union’s Khakeel Bartholemew and Danney Ciceron manned the helmet distribution table.
“It’s all about keeping the kids safe,” said Bartholemew.
“I think its very exciting,” Patel said. “It’s all about getting out and giving help to the kids that require help.”
Rinaldi and Cuccaro held A.skate NJ’s inaugural clinic in September. Those sessions filled up within hours of the online announcement.
“We were thrilled and overwhelmed with the response to our first clinic and knew we were on the right track and filling a necessary void in New Jersey for this very special service,” Rinaldi said.
During the holiday season, A.skate NJ held a special kids crafts session that gave kids a chance to decorate skateboard decks donated by The A.skate Foundation. That event was held in Convention Hall’s Grand Arcade in partnership with Madison Marquette and the Parlor Gallery.
Cuccaro said he knows all too well the sport’s power to transform lives.
“Skateboarding attracts those kids who aren’t interested in playing team sports,” Cuccaro said. “It’s a community, with kids sharing skills and tricks. I have friends today that I met 20 years ago through skateboarding across the country.”
Rinaldi and Cuccaro planned events through 2017 includes a March 5 live screening of the 23rd Annual Tampa Pro at Asbury Park Yacht Club and a mini-golf tournament fundraiser in support of A.skate NJ on April 15 at Asbury Eighteen on the Asbury Park boardwalk.
For more information, visit the A.skate NJ Facebook page.
The Asbury Park Sun is affiliated with the triCityNews newspaper.