The Healing Power of Roller Skating

My friend Arlan Hamilton, once said, “Be yourself so that the people who are looking for you can find you.”

I think there’s probably no shortage of relevant quotes on this topic because of their inherent truth. To illustrate further, I’d like to share a personal story about roller skating.

“Skate Free or Die,” was the lifelong motto of Donn, a dear member of our San Francisco roller skating community. Sadly, as of 2016, he is no longer with us. Considering our ages and backgrounds, we became unlikely friends. Donn once shared this story with me about a time that he was recovering from a spinal injury. Perhaps enough time has passed that it would be ok to share with you now in his honor.

“One night, about 3 years ago … I showed up at Redwood City Skate. I was fresh off of a spinal injury that left me permanently without feeling in my left leg and foot. I could barely still roll – but I had not given up hope. I was struggling to skate that night … until I noticed you in the middle towards one end – doing your thing. And I thought – she’d never believe me if I told her I used to be able to skate (something) like that! But watching you made those ‘feelings’ come alive again – I could ‘feel’ what it felt like to skate that way … and wanted to do it again, no matter what. Quite the inspiration – you were certainly that night.

Look at me now – and all that I have regained since that night … and tell me: how does one repay that kind of debt? I owe you something that will be difficult to ever repay directly.

So … please forgive me for treating you like family – I consider you my Sister. And thank you for being you!”

Over next few years Donn attended more skate parties and put in more skate party miles than I ever have. You could always find him smiling and in the groove wherever there was skating.

Donn B. (RIP 2016) - Photo: Randy Wong

In as much as I had inspired him, he had just given me this enormous gift that I will never forget. It’s one of the things that drives me to share my love of skating with others. Skating is a positive force, with the ability to create friendship, love and healing. 

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