Florida's New Smyrna Beach Skatepark will hold the third and final installmant of the 2012 Grind For Life (GFL) Skatepark series on April 28. The statewide contest circuit is the chief fundraiser for GFL, the small non-profit that provides cancer patients and their families with financial assistance to cover costs incurred by traveling for treatment.
GFL events were initially held in south Florida, where its larger mission emerged from the original fundraiser to help life-long skater and GFL founder Mike Rogers combat his second bout with sarcoma cancer 10 years ago. But Rogers soon discovered that "people were tired of traveling," he says. So GFL (whose board of directors includes legendary skater Andy Macdonald) created a roving series that visits various skateparks across the state, which in turn improved exposure and turnout for the festivities. "Every event there's a lot of people," Rogers said. "Not too many, just the right amount."
Each contest offers a different challenge. The series opened in February on the street course at the Skatepark of Tampa. Last month riders attacked the flow bowl at Fort Lauderdale's Ramp 48 park. April's contest will go down in New Smyrna's Amoeba Pool -- a three-pocket bowl with depths ranging from six to over nine feet, where portions of the surface feature a foot-and-a-half of vert.
Skaters battle across nine divisions, including several grom and adult categories, as well as a sponsored division for local pros. The 47 and over group has seen the biggest increase in competitors, Rogers said. "It's pretty rad to have people in there fifties still skating."
The proceeds -- generated by entry fees, raffles, and merchandise sales -- go directly to patients who apply for aid from GFL, like one 22-year-old who needed to visit a South Carolina facility specializing in treating her rare form of melanoma. Two days later, GFL had her covered.
"We help people when they need it now," he said, "and educate them on survival and recovery." Although they haven't had to deny anyone aid, Rogers said there are limits to what they can provide. "With the economy the way it is, whatever we can get is good." GFL says it has dispersed nearly $110,000 since 2003.