A young man who possessed so little as a kid feels it’s time to give back so other children can see their true potential.
John Brumley grew up in a Cincinnati suburb, one of four kids raised by a single mother. He loved to ride his skateboard on their large apartment driveway, saying it provided him an outlet to escape being different from his friends because of his family’s limited finances.
As expected, the impressionable boy wanted to own the name branded boards, shoes and clothing, but he shopped at Walmart, not exactly the sporting goods store endorsed by Tony Hawk.
His family moved frequently, but when Brumley stepped on his skateboard, regardless of the living arrangements, he felt stability. His life had balance.
“It kept me out of trouble growing up,” he said of skateboarding. “I have had anxiety since I could remember and this made me socially awkward through school. I was a nerd and quiet, didn’t really fit in. Skating is what gave me a common ground. When you go to the park to skate it’s a universal language. It doesn’t matter what your background is, what your skin color is. You have family and respect if you skate with others who skate.”
Then he added: “It was a creative outlet for me.”
Eventually, Brumley, now 24 and living in Fairfield, graduated from Fairfield High School in 2011 after his family moved again, then took his skateboard — his constant companion — on the road to destinations he could only dream of visiting. His passion provided him a passport to the rest of the world.
“This was the time I got to do all the things my family couldn’t afford to do for me,” he said. “I saw the country and even had a following of fans who looked up to me for a while. This made me want to help others have this gift that blessed my life so much.”
So Brumley recently formed a charity called “Keep Kids Skating.” It’s still in its infancy stage, but the goal is mature. He wants to provide young skaters with the necessary equipment and skills to learn the sport that has grown immensely due to the X Games. He has started a GoFundMe account that has been supported by the skateboard community.
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He has collected donated boards from area skateboard shops and given the equipment to young, less fortunate skaters. You know, those other little John Brumleys of the world.
“My goal with the charity is to be able to travel the country and even the world helping kids in impoverished conditions have something to take their mind off of their situation while also growing physically and mentally,” he said. “Skateboarding pushes you to be better every time you get on it.”
So most mornings, Brumley can be found practicing his craft at the Skate Park at Joyce Park. He seems at ease on a board, the way Joey Votto appears at the plate.
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It’s him and his skateboard. They’re a team and no one is there to judge him.
“Skateboarding,” he said, “is like breaking the boundaries of what your body is able to do. You can keep pushing, keep pushing.”
With that, Brumley stepped on his board, pushed off with his right foot, and was gone, down one ramp, up another. It was like he was riding some magic carpet.
A bright smile crossed his face.
He was the same kid he was 10 years ago.