Omar Guerrero always saw skateboarding as more than just a recreational activity – it something that soothed his mind and made the world better.
So, for the last five years, Guerrero has been bringing his skills to Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Northeast Mesa. This year, he carried with him 30 skateboards for the kids at the home on Higley Road.
“In the facility, they have a little skate park, but they don’t have anyone to skate with or show them how to do stuff,” Guerrero said. “These kids don’t really get any outside exposure from skateboarding.
“I’m a strong believer skateboarding can save lives. A lot of people see it as just board and wheels. But I know how therapeutic it can be when you come from tough situations and need a release other and drugs and violence.”
He learned about Sunshine Acres from a Grand Canyon University employee at a skateboarding event. The employee, whose name Guerrero didn’t recall, asked him if he wanted to bring his skills to Sunshine Acres.
“I saw all these skaters and it inspired me to do better,” Guerrero said. “I’m helping pass on the tradition or inspire someone else who wants to be greater than me. When this came about, I said I would go there and demo and skate with the kids.”
He was hooked.
Guerrero asked his employer, Crackers and Co. on Greenfield and Brown roads in Northeast Mesa if the staff would help him in his efforts to collect money for skateboards.
Owners Steve and Veronika Luko sold a chimichanga special throughout September, raising $1,400.
“Veronika and Steve were amazing to do this for me,” he said. “We were able to raise enough money to purchase 30 complete skateboards.”
Steve Luko is proud of his employee.
“Omar is very active with Sunshine Acres and he’s always trying to reach out to the kids through this medium, which is skateboarding,” Luko said. “He asked us if we would be willing to support the cause and of course we did.
“He bought 30 skateboards and he customized each one of those skateboards himself. He put a lot of labor and love into them. They’re all decked out with graphic designs on the boards. He wanted each child to have a unique one.”
When Guerrero was growing up, it took him a while to realize he doesn’t need anybody to skate with him.
“Once I realized that, I hit the parks hard or the streets by myself,” said Guerrero, who lives in Phoenix. “I was sad and depressed and lonely. If my girlfriend left me or I lost my job, I would go skateboard until I felt better.
“I’ve gone to Mexico City for a while and I didn’t know anyone. I listened to the skateboard’s wheels. The next thing I knew, I ran into a group of skaters. They showed me around the city, the plaza, the parks and took me to parties. I was out there with these kids from noon to midnight.”
He wants the kids at Sunshine Acres to have a similar love affair with skateboarding. Along with Crackers and Co., Guerrero recruited Cowtown Skateboards and Uncle Skate.
Guerrero was a little short financially, so Cowtown threw in an extra $300 so he could have 30.
“They were really amazing,” Guerrero said. “They ordered the boards and all of them were the same. So, I sat down at Cowtown and put different colored grip tape with different patterns on them.”
Trent Martin, who owns Cowtown Skateboards in Tempe, Phoenix, Goodyear and Glendale, said he admires Guerrero’s work. The two are longtime friends.
“It’s a quality complete (set) the kids received,” he said. “Sunshine Acres is awesome for the kids. Skateboarding at the park is a great outlet for them.
“It’s something you can do on your own. You don’t need a team—just a skateboard and time. I’m sure it really helps some of these kids and gives them something as an outlet. It’s rad what Omar is doing.”
Martin is hosting additional fundraisers through the end of the year to raise money for additional skateboards for Sunshine Acres and other nonprofits throughout the Valley. Visit cowtownskateboards.com for more information.
Shamrock Foods then came on board to bring four cases of chocolate and regular milk for the kids when Guerrero brought the skateboards to Sunshine Acres. DJ Not Goth provided the music.
“He donated his time and came out to the event,” he said. “The kids were swarming him. They had never seen a DJ set up in real life. They were pushing the buttons, asking him how to mix and how to change tracks. They were having a great time out there.
“Skateboarding is not just a toy. It’s more than that. It’s a community.”