One group of young people in St. John's is getting the chance to make custom-designed skateboards and hone the skills they need to make a living as an artist, all while giving back to a cause they care about.
The NL Boards program is back for its second year, with a group of young people — through the Youth Ventures project at Choices for Youth — putting their skills to work.
Those skateboards will go up for sale in October, with the money raised going to Camp Eclipse, a leadership retreat for LGBTQ youth and allies, run by Planned Parenthood NL.
For some of the artists turning board into canvas, it's a great way to give back.
"It's a really, really cool experience. The last program I did with Choices was also art-based, and I think it's really cool that we get to do something we're passionate about, and then we also get to make money from that that goes to charity," said one participant.
"I went to Camp Eclipse one year, and I didn't realize how much money it takes to put it off, but I think it's a really good resource for local LGBTQ youth.… I think it's a really good thing. I'm glad money's going to it."
The group gets together a couple of times a week to work on their boards together, but there's also some at-home work involved. The program has also had some mentors visit the youths to talk about what it's like to be a working artist, and offer them some guidance on how to establish themselves and figure out their own paths.
"We also do soft skills and stuff like that, so we have some people coming in to help with budgeting, but then we've also had artists come in to talk to us," said the participant.
"But no one has come in yet that is specifically exactly what we're doing, so we are kind of like figuring it out on our own, too, which is cool."
"I find it's been going really well, actually. We've all been working really hard on our boards and trying to get things done," said another participant.
"I've been really enjoying the experience learning about how to deal with deadlines and getting things done and getting to come up with my own design and being able to like, do it."
'A great cause'
For Mike Barbour, the Youth Ventures co-ordinator at Choices for Youth and the NL Boards project, it's been great to see young people develop their art skills, as well as gain hands-on experience that will help a cause they're passionate about.
"When we got together and we started finding out a little bit about each other, there was actually some of our members in our group that were a part of Camp Eclipse and they talked about how positively it impacted their lives and how it gave them confidence and how it was a great cause," Barbour said.
"It was kind of a no-brainer for the rest of the group to follow suit, because as soon as they mentioned it and described a little bit about it, we were all on board."
Camp Eclipse is a leadership camp for LGBTQ youth operating its 12th annual camp this October, with applications currently open.
Nikki Baldwin, executive director of Planned Parenthood NL, said the goal of Camp Eclipse is to give young people support that they may have never received before.
"We talk about something called 'camp magic,' which is the sense that you get when you're at Camp Eclipse that you're finally in a place where everyone understands your identity and your sexuality and accepts it — and not only accepts it, but it's being celebrated," she said.
"So for some kids, especially when they come from rural places or from conservative families, it's the first time they've ever been allowed to be themselves — and it's life-changing. We say it's suicide prevention."
It's also a way to help develop new community leaders, Baldwin said.
"These kids, they come and not only do they get this environment, this safer environment than they've probably ever been in, but they learn leadership skills that they can then take back to their own communities and become the leaders that they need in those communities."
Normally a four-day overnight camp, this year it will operate instead as a two-day day camp in St. John's at the Lantern, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Baldwin said the camp is entirely funded by grants and donations, so this kind of fundraiser is always helpful.
"It normally costs us around $35,000 to $38,000 to put off camp each year to keep it low cost for the campers who often can't afford to pay to cover the cost," said Baldwin.
"It is about $450 that we pay per camper, which we don't pass on to the camper, so money like this just means that we can keep going, have another year, have more people come. It's always amazing when we get money coming in."
A Trick for a Treat
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board sales will be a bit different this year, Barbour said.
Instead of a pop-up sale like last year, Barbour said there will be a weekend-long silent auction Oct. 9-11 at Neighbourhood, the St. John's thrift shop operated by Choices for Youth.
Also new this year is a contest that will see one skater win a custom-designed deck, Barbour said.
"Every skater kind of dreams of is having their own custom board one day. If you grew up playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater and you saw each individual skater had a line of their own custom boards," he said.
"So our contest is A Trick for a Treat. Because our timeline pushes us a little bit more into October, we thought it'd be fun to have a little bit more of an October theme."
To be entered for a chance to get a skateboard designed just the way you like it, entrants have to get a video of themselves doing a trick, and tag NL Boards on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter before midnight Sept. 25.