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11-year-old working to raise $275K for Nevis skatepark

So far, Liam Gustafson has raised $15,000, which is about 5% of his goal.

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Nevis sixth graders Liam Gustafson, Cali Prendiz and Caydence York (not pictured) will be baking cupcakes they are calling "Skate Sweets" to sell by Shenanigans on Aug. 6 during the Nevis citywide garage sale to help raise money for Wild Tiger Skate Park.
Contributed / Liam Gustafson
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Liam Gustafson won’t be 12 years old until September, but he has a big dream.

His goal is to raise $275,000 to create a skate park in the small town of Nevis where he and his friends can hang out and have fun on their boards.

What started out as a birthday wish last year has grown into an action plan to raise the funds to create a place where he and his friends can hang out and skate.

“I want a skatepark in town so I can meet up with my friends and have more of a big kid place to hang out rather than go to the playground or just ride bike around town,” he said.

So far, he has raised $15,000, which is about 5% of his goal.

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The biggest contributor to his fund so far has been the Nevis Fire Department, which pledged $10,000 toward the project.

Liam and his friend Sawyer Nicklason made a presentation to Bank Forward in Walker and they donated $1,000.

The remaining $4,000 has been from donations from community members.

In Oct. 2021, Liam approached the Nevis City Council and asked to build a skatepark in Nevis. The council has approved a 3,800-square-foot section of a city lot, next to the ice arena off Village Road, to use for the skate park.

Gustafson came up with a few different names which he brought to his fifth grade class, and “Wild Tiger Skate Park” was voted as their favorite. Since the Nevis School mascot is the tiger, it also reflects that connection with students.

Turning a dream into a reality

In a fundraising letter, Liam writes, “With the help of my family and friends, the city of Nevis, neighbors like you and local businesses, I know my dream can become a reality.”

Gustafson’s mom, Heidi, said that his determination to reach his goal has not waivered.

“He testified at the House Capital Investment Committee in March on behalf of a skatepark bill,” she said. “According to The Skatepark Project, there are over six million skateboarders in the United States, and most of them are 24 years old or younger. A skatepark allows skaters to form a positive, healthy community. Many cities see the value of getting kids outside and active.”

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Heidi said the state of Minnesota’s grant website is working to pass a skatepark grant, which would be a very large sum with a matching funds component that could accelerate progress towards the $275,000.

“That would be a huge chunk,” she said. “Skateboarder Tony Hawk also has a foundation and has donated to skateparks in the past. That could be another large chunk.”

The mother and son are determined to get the park open as quickly as possible.

“I had to quit my job as the city clerk of Laporte so I could become his skatepark manager,” Heidi said. “He has so much ambition, and it is quite a lot. Our goal is to have it built by October 31, 2024. Every day he’s making little videos to post on his Facebook page of either fixing or riding his scooter on jumps around his yard. Or he’ll scoot in to meet his friends and they will do jumps on curbs. It would be nice to get them off the street and into the park, so they’re not worrying about dodging traffic.”

Liam is also doing whatever he can to raise money locally.

His most recent fundraising project is making cupcakes with his friends that they are calling “Skatepark Sweets.” They will be for sale during the Nevis citywide garage sale on Saturday, Aug. 6.

“His friends are excited and want to help,” she said. “They’re going to set up a bake sale tent right by Shenanigan’s store on Main Street in Nevis from 8 a.m. until noon. They are planning to make cupcakes with a skateboard platform to put them on.”

“I’m really excited to be baking for a good cause,” his friend Cali Prendiz said.

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How to help

The Forward Foundation is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, whose mission is to enhance the lives of children. They have offered to be the fiscal agent for this skatepark project. Donations can be made with a check to Forward Foundation, PO Box 1150, Walker, MN 56484 or sent to Gustafson at 104 West Ave., Nevis, MN 56467.

Donations may also be made online at the Wild Tiger Skate Park Facebook page. All donations are tax deductible.

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Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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