The Dave Tuck Skate Jam
Defying death, for a cause
by Dan Meisler
From the May, 2017 issue
Some of my best friends are skateboarders, but for the life of me I can't stand up on one of those things, much less travel in a predetermined direction, skate around an emptied swimming pool, or fling myself into the air off a ramp and land without breaking multiple bones.
Witnessing the Dave Tuck Skate Jam fills me with a sense of awe bordering on disbelief. The event, now in its fourth year, attracts skateboarders ranging in age from elementary school to retirement, including some professionals, who spend the day nonchalantly defying death.
The charity fundraising event, held at the Ann Arbor Skatepark, honors Dave Tuck, one of the founders of the Ann Arbor skateboarding scene in the 1980s. Dave and I were close in high school. As a teen, he would build ramps wherever he could and helped establish the first public skateboarding facility, the "City Ramp" at Veterans Memorial Park.
Dave died of pancreatic cancer in 2013. Those of us who knew him remember how joyful and positive he was. The skate jam, organized by my older brother Josh Meisler, leaves you with the same positive feeling as hanging with Dave.
For me, the best part is watching the youngest skaters. As a volunteer, I help get them signed up for competitions, and at that point it seems like they're just cute kids getting ready for any field trip or after-school activity.
Then I watch them drop in to the "pool." Their skill, daring, and confidence is beyond anything I expected. This is not some trip to the zoo; this is a bunch of very talented young people showing the world what they can do.
I'm also impressed by the "masters" division--skaters closer to my age. As a past-his-prime athlete who refuses to quit, I recognize and admire their determination and veteran savvy.
Proceeds from the skate jam benefit Grind for Life and Strap In For Life. Founded by professional skateboarder and two-time sarcoma survivor Mike Rogers, Grind for Life donates money to families who need to travel long distances for cancer treatment. Strap In For Life helps fund mountain experiences for skateboarders and snowboarders and their families affected by cancer. Dave Tuck was one of the founders.
This year's jam takes place Saturday, May 27.
[Originally published in May, 2017.]
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