The latest installment in the Actions REALized program, which is Real Skateboards' quest to give back to their community, has taken the form of a partnership between the San Francisco-based skate brand, Grammy-winning rockers Green Day and the Children's Hospital and Research Center of Oakland, Calif.
Real and Green Day were both born out of the same Northern California neighborhood. Real's co-founder, skateboarder Jim Thiebaud, said, "The East Bay skateboard and punk-rock scene was real small back in the day and everybody knew everybody. In Berkeley or Oakland, if you were a skateboarder or a punk rocker, you knew everyone in the circle. So I've been friends with some of the guys in the band forever."
For years Thiebaud and members of Green Day had been trying to establish a project on which to collaborate. The band's recent simultaneous release of three albums -- "¡Uno!," "¡Dos!" and "¡Tré!" -- provided the perfect opportunity.
The album artwork for each record was resized, and Thiebaud, a veteran punk-rocker himself, was looking at three Green Day decks on the floor of his office at Deluxe Distribution.
Harnessing the energy behind their Actions REALized program, Thiebaud reached out to Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong to discuss the recipient of the funds raised through the sales of the boards. Armstrong immediately suggested the Children's Hospital of Oakland, where his sister works. "They do a lot of great work in there. They don't turn away any child," explains Thiebaud.
Having had firsthand experience years ago, when he had to rush his son in for emergency care, Thiebaud is grateful, humbled and in awe of the doctors and nurses, saying, "If you've ever spent the night in a child emergency room or ICU of a children's ward, it's the gnarliest place on Earth that I've ever been. These people do it every day and their job is not only to take care of the kids, but also make them happy and not focused on their disease, so getting to meet the staff was incredibly inspirational to me."
In addition to raising money for a great cause, Thiebaud collected his crew and team riders, loaded them into the van and headed out to the Children's Hospital of Oakland to spend the day with some of the young patients. He knew that the experience would be as memorable to the skaters as it was to the children in the wards. "They travel around to demos and the sense they get is, 'That was a great kickflip,' or 'You're my favorite skater,'" says Thiebaud. "But when they see that they can do so much more than on-the-board stuff, that's really important to me to try to show that to them."
Skateboarders Ishod Wair, Dennis Busenitz, Justin Brock, Jake Donnelly, Na-kel Smith and JT Aultz visited the many wards of the hospital, spending time, sharing laughs and handing out skateboards and stickers to the kids.
They definitely raised spirits throughout Children's Hospital of Oakland, but the skaters themselves were moved and changed by the experience. Says Aultz, "Visiting the hospital, it was heartbreaking to see kids struggling with illness at such a young age, but also nice to see places like that that don't refuse help to a single person. Also seeing how protective every staff member was about keeping those kids safe was amazing too."
For the latest addition to the Real team, amateur Na-kel Smith, the shift was profound. "Going to the Children's Hospital of Oakland was great," he says. "I never felt the feeling of giving back in that way. I guess when you live a dream life doing what you enjoy and love all the time, you kind of forget that everything isn't perfect, and seeing kids younger than me dealing with serious conditions is very humbling."
"That was a very special day," Smith continues. "I hope to one day be as strong as some of the boys and girls I met there."