First Annual “Harrison Jam Jam” Skate Fest Exceeds Expectations!
By Tami Larson
Eighteen years ago, three, 11-year old Mill Valley boys full of dreams, grit and determination asked a very good question … “Why can’t we have a skatepark?” Fueled with tireless passion and against all odds, Gabe Bram, Will Gordon and Dex Carvey (Comedian Dana Carvey’s son) raised money, rallied the help of the community and a local school, and managed to get a skatepark built in 2003 with temporary structures. Then in 2016 another young boy, 12 year old Jake Moore, asked “Why can’t we have a better skatepark?
With the same dream, vision, and passion for skateboarding, Jake raised even more money and enlisted the combined support of the entire community including Proof Lab, The city of Mill Valley, Friends of MV Parks, and many individuals who invested their own money and/or slept in their cars and worked day and night so that in 2017, two generations of skateboarders dreams would come true. “Harrison’s Skate Park” located in the parking lot of Mill Valley Middle School is now arguably one of the best skate parks in Northern California.
September was Mental Health Recovery month and after the success of a small pop up skate event on January 1, 2021 at Harrison’s Skate Park, Ryan and Gary Fedoroff (our feature story family) along with Reese Forbes, former pro skateboarder, successful entrepreneur and current realtor at Compass Real Estate in Mill Valley, as part of their tireless efforts to help at risk youth, took a giant leap toward changing that mindset. They rallied the community, major players in the skateboarding industry and various community organizations committed to mental health and wellness such as Compass, Mill Valley Market, Thrasher, Proof Lab, Mill Valley Police, DLXSF, Mill Valley School District and Newport Healthcare to help host a skate competition “Harrison’s Jam Jam” on September 18th, 2021. The event was complete with great music, judges, food trucks, prizes and wellness booths. The mission: to highlight the positive attributes skateboarding can and is having on mental health, including building confidence and resilience, fostering determination, and learning to get back up when you fall.
The day began with a drizzle which never really let up forcing the competition to get stalled a few times but that did nothing to quell the overwhelming positive vibes, smiles, laughter and bonding between the kids with one another and their new found admirers in the community. And with skateboarding making its debut as a new olympic sport at the summer games this past June, those in attendance may have witnessed some future olympic skaters in action! The event was also complete with some fierce competition, high flying tricks and rail grinds with prizes going out to the top three finishers in 18 and under girls,10 and under boys, 11-14 boys, 15 – 18 boys and an all ages best trick contest. (see full story, video clips and more photos on MtTamMedia.com) The day did not go by without a few tears though as Gail Dunnet, Harrison Dunnet’s ( who the park is named after) mother gave a moving speech about Harrison’s own struggle with mental health and substance abuse and how music and skateboarding were the two things that gave him relief from the pain he was in. She encouraged what was a rare, silent, yet fully engaged group of teenagers as well as the parents and other visitors to break the bad stigma surrounding talking about mental health and put more focus on preventive measures and alternatives.
Harrison, a songwriter and rapper as well, was misdiagnosed and prescribed a deadly combination of 9 contraindicated drugs at a rehab center just five days before he was to further pursue his passion at LA College of Music for songwriting, he went to sleep, and never woke up.
We had a chance to speak with one of the days finalists, Milan Schaffer, an 8th grader at
]Mill Valley Middle School who discovered his passion for skating when he was 11. He told us” I know a lot of people think of graffiti and drugs when they think of skateboarders but for most skaters they are there to get free time to get exercise or relieve stress” when asked about the event he said “It was so great having people there to cheer us on, skating is great. I love getting out there everyday and challenging myself to get better and it feels so good when I look back at how much I’ve improved. More kids should try it” I immediately thought about Harrison and the last part of the letter his mother, Gail read during her speech. It was an assignment given to him in 7th grade back in 2010 at MVMS in Ms Gruszynski’s class, he was assigned a paper about a Life Changing Moment. …Here is some of what he wrote,
“I would be here til the end of time if I were to tell you all the things skateboarding has done for me. For that reason, I shall only reveal a few. It gave me strength, determination, friends courage, popularity, and everlasting bonds. Most of all it gave me a purpose, a purpose that nobody could ever take away from me, and to this day I have spent more time on a skateboard than Adam spent with Eve. It is my life, my passion, my art, my one true love…Skateboarding.”
Skate Contest Winners:
18 and Under Girls:
1st Place: Adela Spinelli
2nd Place: Sloane Carey
3rd Place: Katelyn West
10 and Under Boys:
1st Place: Porteur McGuire
2nd Place: Lucas Tozer
3rd Place: Oliver Fedoroff
11 – 14 Boys:
1st Place: Jasper Hauth
2nd Place: Beckett Scholz
3rd Place: Liam Nolan
15 – 18 Boys:
1st Place: Willie Swain
2nd Place: Zeek McGuire
3rd Place: Adam Dali
1st Place: Mason Dali with a Blizzard Flip on the hip
2nd Place: Jasper Hauth with a Feeble 50/50 on the down rail
3rd Place: Curren McCarthy with a Boneless frontside 360 on the hip