Service Board Luau Raises $20,000

More than 200 people came to the second annual Service Board Luau held at the Snowboard Connection in Seattle’s Pioneer Square (home to WTO’s infamous introduction). The idea was to raise money, hula dance, read poetry—among other things—in what’s now become an important annual fundraiser for an organization that uses snowboarding as an important lesson for life.

Luau in the lot. Photo: Kathleen Gasperini

The Service Board is the brainchild of John Logic, Lisa Okey, and Thomas Goldstein, who decided to take kids snowboarding as part of a program to help at-risk youth “learn more about life than nice cars and fast cash,” as Logic put it in a eulogy he wrote for a former customer, 23-year-old Jay Bateman, who was shot and killed probably over drugs. Now in its 7th year, the Service Board has helped hundreds of kids, mostly teens learn about responsibility, volunteerism, and general care for a world outside their own.

“Snowboarding’s a metaphor,” explains Goldstein about the Service Board’s set-up. “It’s something that gets these kids above the clouds. It changes each kid in their own way.” Snowboarding is the carrot on the stick of the Service Board program. Kids apply and/or are recommended by parents, teachers, and counselors who identify those needing additional help coping with hard life choices. Goldstein visits schools and community centers talking to teachers and counselors about kids who should become students of the Service Board. Once enrolled, each term’s 20-30 kids meet on Wednesdays and Sundays, from January to June, doing projects like rebuilding trails, planting roses at retirement homes (the “Rose Project”), attending workshops at various businesses, learning resume writing, yoga, and of course, snowboarding.

K2’s Gin Yang and TSB co-founder Lisa Okey. Photo: Kathleen Gasperini

“Snowboarding,” says Goldstein, “is a level playing field for counselors and youth. It makes us face the common fears of trying something new, together. It’s an outlet for those who don’t think they can succeed.” As Goldstein once told the Seattle Weekly, “there’s nothing like being in a van together for an hour. It’s a moving confessional.”

The Service Board also shows kids how to break patterns. “They told us that we couldn’t sell snowboards downtown and we exploded that myth,” said Logic in an inspiring speech to the rapt luau audience seated along racks of skateboards. “We exploded the myth that only rich white kids are on the mountains; we exploded the myth that you can’t give back or your job has to suck.” Neither does your life. The Service Board is a collaboration of dedicated adult volunteers, an impressive advisory board, including Seattle’s chief of police Norm Stamper and Sub Pop general manager, Megan Jasper, plus resorts like Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass, and manufacturers such as K2, who donate time, equipment, and discounted tickets.

Among the luau’s events were speeches from kids about how the Service Board has changed their lives, art displays, and poetry readings with titles such as “Life,” “Why We Rave,” and a performance piece of Maya Angelou’s “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.” Swag raffles, hula dancers, a “guaranteed lei,” and Polynesian cuisine completed the feel-good evening. Not to mention foo-foo drinks from a “Tiki Lounge.”

Hula dancer in the house. Photo: Kathleen Gasperini

As teens took to the floor in a Hawaiian version of a country line-dance after the ceremonies, it was clear just how successful the Service Board has been in teaching responsibility through fun. As one graduate put it, “snowboarding really helps us all grow up.”