A nonprofit is bringing an action sports ministry to the southwest metro.
JSAW opened Help BoardShop and its accompanying indoor skate park in southwestern Edina with the goal of providing kids with a safe, supportive space where they can feel like they belong and be disciples of Christ, JSAW founder Jonny Nelson explained. The facility is at 7385 Bush Lake Road.
The staff is working to put the finishing touches on transforming the former carpeted office space into a place where kids can hang out. The location includes a lounge and an art gallery where they are planning to have local artists sell their work, Nelson said. It also has a program room for their faith-based work – small group meetings and planning service projects in the community. They also plan to host bands in the skate park and have the shop, where they’ll sell longboards, skateboards, snowboards and apparel.
Jon Lord, JSAW’s program director, is also creating an after school program where kids can receive mentoring and homework help, and do some skateboarding.
Nelson explains that people say “support the local shop” in the sports world, which means people are supporting a business owner. They are turning that on its head and are mentally, spiritually and educationally supporting the kids who participate in boarding, he said.
“We want to create a place where youth can come and belong,” Nelson said.
Lord originally connected with JSAW when they were doing an event at a festival in his city. It was where he felt like he belonged and started taking on responsibilities, he said. That was seven years ago and it’s now grown into his career.
Lord has a particular interest in reaching out to disadvantaged youth. JSAW has two vans to drive kids to skateboarding camps, and it hosts day camps where kids can learn new skills and make friends, he said. They also bring kids to summer camps in northern Minnesota.
Nelson began JSAW when he was 16 to provide youth with a place that he didn’t have when he was growing up. He describes his childhood as rough, saying he felt hurt and lost. He played basketball and hockey, but they weren’t his thing, he said, adding that he skateboarded and didn’t feel like he belonged.
When he was 16, the pastor of a youth group of which he was a member challenged the group to come up with ways to connect with the community. He thought of creating a skate park. During a festival in St. Paul, an evangelical group created a skate park and Nelson found out they were planning to leave it behind in the community.
He opened his first indoor skate park in Chanhassen in 2004. However, it was too large to be sustainable and closed in 2007. After that, JSAW traveled the world to share the gospel and build skate parks.
They’re not in this to make money, Nelson explained, adding “we love it and this is our heart.”
Families and businesses can provide funding to the organization through sponsorships beginning at $100.
More info: jsaw.org.
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