The skateboarder giving vulnerable kids the chance to fly
It’s 2002. Dallas Oberholzer, champion skateboarder, sets foot in Isithumba, in the sprawling Valley of a Thousand Hills. He has a vision for something unheard of in the area: a skate park. But in the face of uncertainty, he turned his idea into a reality, and opened Indigo Skate Camp, a place for vulnerable youths to try their foot at the sport and grind a new path in life.
Today, a metal ramp juts out against the rolling greenery of Isithumba, but the smiles on kids’ faces as they ride their boards shows just how much the skate camp belongs there. “I see children not accepting the status quo, looking for action – eyes are excited and they’re full of energy,” Oberholzer says. The camp is not simply a place for kids to learn how to skate. Through the Indigo Youth Movement, an NGO that developed from the camp, children are offered far more than instruction in skating. Indigo, supported by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, helps develop whatever skills the kids show, educates them about life, and helps foster a sense of family and community. Promising skateboarders at the camp have become instructors, and there is now a tourism ambassador programme that employs 35 youths from the area.
Indigo has taken skateboarding all across South Africa, bringing the sport to those who otherwise may never have the chance to experience the thrill of flying down a ramp. In 2015, Indigo Skate Camp won Recreation Body of the Year at the SA Sport Awards. It’s become a place of hope and possibility. “It’s all about connections, community, understanding and acceptance,” says Oberholzer, “and if we get those things right, this is really a platform to grow so much more than just skateboarding.”