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Monday, July 9, 2012
Updated: July 10, 12:53 PM ET
Sk8-Strong to help wildfire recovery

By Colin Bane

Tom Schaar signing the skateboard, which is now being sold on eBay.

Wildfires were raging in Waldo Canyon near 15-year-old skateboarder Jono Schwan's home in Colorado Springs, Colo., as he was making his X Games debut in both the Skateboard Big Air and Vert competitions in Los Angeles earlier this month. So, with his friends back home on his mind -- some of them staying at the emergency Red Cross Evacuation Center set up at his school -- he decided to try to help.

Schwan, founder of the non-profit organization Sk8-Strong, took a spare deck around to his peers and some of the skateboarding legends on hand at X Games and had them autograph it; this week Sk8-Strong is auctioning the board off on eBay and donating all proceeds toward planting new tree saplings in Waldo Canyon.

"I always bring a few boards with me in case one breaks," Schwan says. "I wasn't going to use this one so I decided, along with the rest of the board members of Sk8-Strong, that it would be a good idea to try to get it signed and then auction it off to help with the rehabilitation from the fire damage. We've had a lot of rain this week so the fires are finally getting under control, but hundreds of homes have been destroyed and that whole area is a real mess."

Schwan ended up getting a total of 28 people to sign the deck once word of his project spread, including some of the skaters he most looks up to.

"Taking the board around at X Games led to run-ins with some of my biggest heroes, people like Steve Caballero, Christian Hosoi, Tony Hawk, and Danny Way," Schwan says. "Those guys are the biggest names in skateboarding and it turns out they're all awesome, friendly people who were eager to help."

This year's X Games Skateboard Big Air gold medalist Bob Burnquist and Skateboard Vert gold medalist Pierre-Luc Gagnon both signed the board, as did women's skateboarding pioneers Cara-Beth Burnside and Mimi Knoop and veteran pros like Sandro Dias, Rune Glifberg, Neal Hendrix, Bucky Lasek, Andy Macdonald, Danny Mayer, Edgard Pereira, Alex Perelson, Paul-Luc Ronchetti, Elliot Sloan, Sasha Steinhorst, Adam Taylor, and Lincoln Ueda. Camp Woodward owner Gary Ream -- who helped Schwan arrange some last-minute MegaRamp preparation at Woodward West just before X Games -- signed the board, and Schwan signed it himself, along with some of his next-generation peers including Martin Andre, Nolan Munroe, Josh Stafford, and 12-year-old 1080 spinner Tom Schaar.

The auction ends on July 14; as of this writing bids had already reached $990. "I didn't expect that, to be honest," Schwan says. "It's been doing pretty good."

Schwan and Sk8-Strong have also been behind a project to construct a new vert ramp at the 40,000-square-foot Memorial Park Skateboard Park in Colorado Springs, rectifying a problem that has been particularly vexing for Schwan: For the last few years there hasn't been a single public vert ramp open anywhere in the state of Colorado.

"We're laying the Skatelite surface next week after all this rain clears out and will be having our grand opening on July 28," Schwan says. "I'm hoping to get a lot of the guys who signed the board out for the opening and to do another benefit of some kind to help rehabilitate Waldo Canyon. Sk8-Strong has always been about helping the community and skateboarders. With the vert ramp almost done I feel like the helping skateboarders part is already on its way, so now I'm focusing on how to help the rest of my community."