My skatepark story

I like to think these days I’m breathing new life into the old phrase, “just skating by.”

Back before a thousand things happened – before a national pandemic, multiple heart attacks and one too many bad breaks, just skating by meant really not trying. It meant settling for less – because I could. I had time. And other options.

Today I know if I want to see my kids just skate by I have to roll. Right. Now.

My name is Marie Ryan and I’m the last person on earth to be chief defender and planner of a multi-thousand-dollar skate park in Irmo, South Carolina. But it’s just one of the things I’d never thought I’d be doing at this point in my life. At 43 years old, a wife and mom of six, I’ve been living with a diagnosis of heart failure for five years. During that time, I’ve had two major heart attacks. So, the prognosis is not good. But focusing on getting this park built has truly helped.

And so, I roll on.

Irmo is not my hometown. I’m a California girl and grew up in a place where surfing and skateboarding are as natural as breathing. I think that’s maybe why I’m the one pushing for this project. But the idea was born simply out of a desire for convenience: I was sick (literally) and tired of driving my teenager 45 minutes across town to the closest skatepark. I wanted off the Interstate and out of my car, and I wanted my son forming bonds and close relationships with the kids in our own community. The more I thought about it, the more I realized, I really want our town to have a positive, central showcase – a place for teenagers like mine that don’t necessarily shine in team sports to show off their unique talents and craft in a safe, athletic, family-friendly environment.

And so, if not wings necessarily, the skatepark idea took on wheels.

I want my kids – their friends, my beloved community – to know I think they’re worth the effort. I want my children to see their mom dreaming big. I’m also so inspired by the support and encouragement this project is receiving. Everything we read and see in the news these days is bad and biased. But not here. Here, people of all races and political backgrounds find ways to work together and try to find a way to “yes” – to build our community up for everyone’s sake. I love that my kids get to see this goodness.

In a way, I think, this project is saving my life a little every day. I’ve had many significant and really scary health setbacks. But working on the skatepark is life-affirming. I want to see this park finished.

Right now, that’s a pretty big goal and there’s no skating by that.

Marie Ryan