Do Something Awards recipient Mark Kabban established YALLA (Youth and Leaders Living Actively), which uses soccer to empower child survivors of war to rebuild their lives through its education and eco-therapy programs. He submitted this account of a day spent with Tony Hawk.
On the last Thursday of March, I took eight child survivors of war, members of YALLA, to spend the afternoon skating with Tony Hawk.
Some of the kids had never heard of Tony Hawk, but the rest were in shock that they would be skating with the guy on the cover of their favorite video game (next to FIFA of course). On the van ride to the Tony Hawk Foundation (THF), 10-year-old Karen refugee Lei Thu from Thailand said, “I learned how to kick flip watching Tony Hawk on YouTube.” Sarmeen, a Chaldean boy from Iraq, started skating as soon as he arrived in America and was doing ollies before he could put together a sentence in English.
The kids were greeted with open arms in the parking lot by Lenore Hawk Dale, Tony Hawk’s sister. They were excited, but a little nervous when we entered THF. Before we knew it, Tony Hawk, his talented peers, and staff made us feel right at home. The kids stared in awe at Tony’s acrobatic tricks on the half pipe. When the skate demo was over, we ate pizza with Tony and checked out the impressive skateboards on THF’s walls. We ended the day by skating and showing Tony that soccer players make great skaters.
I wanted to ask Tony Hawk to be the guest speaker at our gala this year, but I was nervous and hesitated. In the end, I remembered Nancy Lublin’s (DoSomething.org CEO) story of Donald Trump and decided to ask him. He said he likes to do local events and told me to contact his staff—it never hurts to ask.
I drove the kids home afterwards, some fell asleep exhausted, others were awake reading Tony's book or going through their gift bags. The next day all of our kids went to school wearing YALLA shirts autographed by Tony Hawk. Sarmeen even wears it to soccer practice now.
What can you do?