An upstate native, Kenny Reed spent 16 years as a pro skateboarder, traveling the world and bringing the sport of skateboarding to areas that had little or no experience with it before.
“Skateboarding was a sport that I could practice and continue progressing at my own pace without rules or boundaries,” Kenny said. “But what most attracted me to it was the physical challenges, meeting new people, and traveling.”
After his pro career, he spent 11 years living in Barcelona, Spain, before deciding to return to New York to be near his family. He joined the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store team as a cashier in 2014.
“I really enjoy getting to know the people I work with, the customers, and feeling part of the community,” Kenny said. “I felt it was something I was missing out on before because of all the traveling.”
Though he settled in the community, Kenny still stayed involved in the skate boarding world, using his skills and knowledge of skate boarding to teach the sport to others around the world. In 2015, Kenny volunteered to help a friend construct a skateboard ramp for local teens in the city of Qalqilya, West Bank. While there, he bonded with the local skate boarding community and met Adam Abel, a filmmaker from New York City, and Mohammad Othman, a local youth leader. Their friendship continued, and the next year they launched SkateQilya, a non-profit organization that holds a summer camp for the city’s youth, ages 7 to 16, that teaches skateboarding, photography and videography, and community building.
SkateQilya is open to both girls and boys, with a little more than half of the enrollment each year being girls. In the first two years, the camp served over 60 children. The leaders’ goals are to overcome barriers and give the campers both social and technical life skills. Already, they are seeing positive results from the camp.
“When I came back for the second year of camp, it was amazing to see how the girls and boys from the year before have improved on and off the board,” Kenny said. “The families had given us great feedback about their studies and behavior at home. We came to learn they’d stayed in contact and formed strong bonds with the other children from nearby villages.”
The team is currently building another skate park in the village of Jayyous, about a 15 minute drive from Qalqilya, with the plan to serve even more easily the youth in the area who had previously had to journey to Qalqilya for the program.