For two Seymour High School students, skateboarding is more than just a hobby or passing interest.
Being able to ride a skateboard offers junior Michael Davisson and sophomore Leighanna Foster an escape from the everyday stresses of being a teenager.
Whether it’s dealing with an issue at school or home, skateboarding is a way to burn off anger, frustration or extra energy or to just clear their minds, they said.
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“It’s just getting on the board and going, just taking off,” Davisson said. “It’s nothing like being in a school sport. It’s not based on what you can do. It’s about how you get to be yourself and enjoy who you are when you’re skating.”
Foster likened skateboarding to flying.
“You can go anywhere,” she said. “It’s very freeing.”
It also has helped them forge a special friendship with fellow student John Spray.
Spray is a special needs student whose disability prevents him from communicating much verbally.
But he didn’t need words recently to express his interest in learning skateboarding and his desire to be friends with Davisson and Foster.
“One day before fall break, I had my skateboard and was riding it outside on the sidewalk after school in front of the bus lobby, and John saw me,” Davisson said. “He was watching me, and you could tell he was interested and excited.”
So Davisson invited Spray to come over and check out his skateboard.
“I knew he loved it and wanted to try it,” Davisson said. “He’s always happy and smiling.”
So with the help of Foster, who spends time working in Spray’s classroom, they got both of Spray’s feet on the skateboard.
With Davisson on one side and Foster on the other, they held onto Spray to keep him balanced and safe and rolled him down the sidewalk.
“He was so into it. He just loved it and wanted to do it again and again,” Davisson said. “He was a real pro. It made him really happy. He was having the time of his life out there.”
And that made Davisson happy, he said.
Some pictures of Davisson and Foster skating with Spray were posted and shared on Facebook and quickly gained a lot of attention from other students, teachers, skaters and people in the community, all who loved what Davisson and Foster were doing.
After that day, Davisson knew he wanted to do something for Spray to encourage his desire to learn how to skateboard and to show him they were friends.
Davisson decided to purchase a new skateboard for Spray so he would have his very own. When he told Foster about his idea, she wanted to help, too, and said she would use her own money to buy him a new pair of Vans skating shoes.
With help from Matt Nicholson of B2 Bikes and Boards in Seymour and a financial donation made by Advanced Fiber Technology representative Pete Burgmeier of Seymour, Davisson was able to pick out a new skateboard for Spray.
The board was brightly colored and featured a pattern of Legos that Davisson thought Spray would like.
When Spray’s teacher, Stephanie Wilson, learned what the two were planning to do, she said it touched her heart and made her realize how good kids can be to each other.
Her relationship with Davisson started on rocky terms, though, as she once gave him a Wednesday school punishment for being disrespectful. Little did she know that Davisson would learn from his mistake and strive to be a better, more respectful person.
On Oct. 20, at the end of the school day, Davisson and Foster presented Spray with two wrapped boxes. After ripping the paper off of the first box, he reached in and pulled out the gift.
“Skateboard,” he said grinning. “Thank you.”
He then opened the box from Foster and proudly held up one of the new black Vans high in the sky for everyone to see, pumping it up and down.
“Thank you,” he said again.
Wilson said the moment brought tears to her eyes.
“I’m so proud of him (Michael) and Leighanna,” Wilson said. “They are great kids, and they will never realize what this means to John for them to include him.”
After giving both Foster and Davisson big hugs, Spray was ready to skate. He hooked arms with his friends, who held him steady on the skateboard, and he took his first ride on his very own skateboard in the school bus lobby.
“We need to get him a helmet and some safety pads before we do anything more, but at some point, we’d like to take him to the skate park,” Davisson said. “I think he’d really like that.”