THE STORY – By Zack Schuler

Back in 2008, I took a trip to Ethiopia.  My wife and I were going to adopt a baby girl, and prior to the process really getting started, I decided to take an exploratory trip to check out the country and the people, eat good food, and visit the orphanage where my daughter would be coming from.

While I made many good memories, I definitely made quite a few bad ones as well.  There were two that really stuck out, and both of them were with kids who simply did not have enough.  You see, many of the kids that I saw were not running around playing – they were running around looking for something to eat. On top of the obvious conviction one might have about the health and simple humanitarian issue as work here, these kids were going to have a very different life than I had just in terms of “being a kid.”

My weekends as a kid were pretty much spent on my skateboard. All of my closet friends were skaters, and that’s just basically what we did when we weren’t in school. In Ethiopia, I never saw a skateboard.

Fast forward to end of 2015, I was watching Anthony Bourdain on CNN. He has the best job in the world, as he gets to travel, eat, drink, and report on those three things. Well, Anthony had an upcoming episode on Ethiopia so I had to tune in. In the beginning of the segment Anthony was visiting with a man named Sean who was on a mission to place skateboards at the feet of every kid in Ethiopia! Five minutes into this episode I lost it. While there is still overwhelming poverty in Ethiopia, at least these kids were getting the chance, if only for a few hours a day, to simply be kids.

Within minutes, I jumped online to do a Google search and found out that there were multiple skate projects going on in Ethiopia. Tony Hawk, perhaps the world’s most famous skater, was supporting a couple of these projects, including Sean’s. Tony and I have a mutual friend, so I reached out to her and she made the introduction to Tony immediately, and within 30 minutes or so I had a response.

Hawk has his own foundation which supports all things skating, including in Ethiopia. It was a no-brainer for me to partner with him on a project, which quickly developed into a plan to produce 200 skateboards and send them to Ethiopia.

What makes this even more special for me is that every board has a picture of my daughter and a NINJIO logo on it. The boards are currently in production, and are expected to ship to Ethiopia sometime in April. Once we’ve got additional footage, we will be sure to post it here.