Westland grad skates with "sole"
Nate Eckhart is using his hobby to help change the world.
Eckhart, a Westland High School graduate, recently won a trip through TOMS Shoes and Element Skateboards to visit South Africa to give shoes and skateboards to underprivileged children.
“It was the experience of a lifetime,” said Eckhart.
Although he only recently picked up the sport, skateboarding has become a passion for Eckhart.
“I’m glad I started,” he said, “It’s opened a new door.”
Eckhart became aware of the partnership between TOMS and Element when he bought one of their skateboards.
Though he wasn’t in the market for a new board, he made the purchase after he learned that each board purchased equaled a new board for a child in need. After a bit of research, he learned that Tom’s does the same with shoes - with every purchase made, a needy child gets a free pair.
“It was a way to help kids that share the same passion on the other side of the world,” said Eckhart.
Winning the chance hand out those skateboards and shoes was a dream come true.
“I was lucky enough to be on the other side of the giving” he said.
During his eight-day trip in October, Eckhart visited schools, youth centers and a skate camp, where he helped give away 2,500 pairs of shoes and about 75 skateboards.
He admits that the skate camp was one of his favorite parts.
“It was the first day. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Eckhart.
“Some of those kids were better than me!” he added.
He also tells of visiting a school where nearly 1,000 children danced and sang in celebration of their arrival.
“They sang at the tops of their lungs for us. It was amazing,” Eckhart said.
One of the moments that stands out the most to Eckhart was visiting a school that sat on the top of a hill.
“I watched those kids walk down the hill to us, some of them with no shoes. They walked back up the hill with shoes on.”
Eckhart not only handed out shoes, but sized each child to make sure the pair they received fit just right.
“In most cases, the shoes we gave were their first pair of new shoes that fit,” he said.
Now that he’s back on his home turf, Eckhart isn’t done making a difference.
“It ignited a new fire in me to do something else,” he says of his trip. “I have more of a desire and a need to get involved. I just feel like something’s got to happen now.”