Boy, 6, helps provide skateboards for Afghan kids
Six-year-old Strider Bennett spends a lot of his free time riding his skateboard in front of his family's home on Green Avenue. The board he uses has a long history; it belonged to his father, Derek Bennett, when he was a child growing up in the same house. Now the skateboard that ties him to his father's youth is also serving as link to his mother's upbringing in Afghanistan.
This summer, Strider's mother, Shekaiba Bennett, was watching the news when she saw a video of an organization called Skateistan, a skateboarding school in Kabul, Afghanistan, which offers children the opportunity to learn how to skate and have fun in a war-ridden city. Shekaiba Bennett then pulled up the video on her computer and showed it to her son. Afterward, she and her son discussed the meaning of the video.
"We talked about how blessed we are to live in this wonderful country," Shekaiba Bennett said. "That we have access to education, sports and recreation. A lot of kids don't have access to parks ... . Imagine if Afghan kids had something like Mead Park."
Skateistan is trying to change that.
"I watched the movie of Skateistan," said Strider Bennett, who is a first grader at South School. "It showed that they were making skate parks and that they needed money ... . I wanted to help."
So Strider and his mother decided to create a lemonade stand on their street, where Strider could raise money to contribute toward the school. In one afternoon, Strider raised $18.50 from selling lemonade. But he wasn't finished. With the help of his mother, Strider sent an e-mail to friends and family asking them to match the $18.50 he raised.
"Yesterday, I had a lemonade stand in front of our house to raise money for Skateistan ... . Since it was Labor Day and no one was in town, I only made $18.50 from the sale. I am writing to ask you to match the money that I raised, so we can help Skateistan's students," he wrote in the e-mail.
"Thanks again in helping Afghan kids my age who have very limited options for sports and recreation to have a better future," the e-mail concluded.
After receiving matching donations, Strider has raised $350.50 for Skateistan. The money will go toward new skating equipment for the children.
"Now they can buy stuff -- helmets, gloves, kneepads, shoes and skateboards," Strider Bennett said. "You can't skate without a skateboard."
Skateistan is about more than just skateboarding, Shekaiba Bennett said.
"I was born in Afghanistan, and I came over here when I was 10 years old," she said. "My initital thought when I saw the video was that it was so fabulous that [Skateistan's founder] Oliver [Percovich] was teaching kids how to skate. They've never seen a skateboard before. Then I saw the faces of the kids in the video who were around the age as I was when I was living there."
Shekaiba Bennett said she viewed the project as a way to introduce her son to civic engagement, and help him learn more about his mother's heritage.
"I hope he felt that he learned that by helping out people -- locally or internationally -- that we're all part of one world. We're all interconnected. I hope he learns that he can always help out, no matter how big or small," she said. "There are always people out there, whether it's in Afghanistan or in Fairfield County, there are always people in need, and it's our duty as fortunate people to help those who are not as fortunate as we are."
Strider Bennett said he feels very lucky to have the things he has.
"It made me feel good to do this ... because I get to help people," he said.
Shekaiba Bennett said she is very proud of her son and his efforts, but that the lemonade stand may not be their last effort.
"Skateistan could use more donations," she said.
To learn more about Skateistan, or make a donation, visit http://skateistan.org.