Local skaters, businesses launch $50K fundraising campaign to honor late skater with memorial ramp

photo by: Courtesy of Justin Shiney

Corey Lawrence soars through the air on a skateboard. Lawrence died last year, and some of the people who were close to him have launched a $50,000 fundraising campaign to install a vert ramp in his memory at Centennial Skate Park.

Lawrence skateboarders are working to raise $50,000 to install a vertical ramp in memory of Corey Lawrence — a fixture of the Kansas City-area skating scene who died last year in a skateboarding accident in Florida.

Colloquially referred to as a vert ramp, the finished product at Centennial Skate Park will be 11.5 feet tall and more than 30 feet wide. Led by a group of local businesses, the fundraiser is a little over a fifth of the way to its goal, according to the last update on the campaign’s website — they’ve raised $12,130.22 as of Friday, the end of the second week of the campaign.

In memorializing Lawrence — who died at age 51 after taking a “nasty fall,” according to friends — local skating enthusiasts are hoping to pass vert skateboarding along to future generations.

One of those locals, Sean Ingram, said Lawrence was well-known as the “vert guy” around the Midwest. Anywhere there was a vert ramp, Lawrence was likely to show up and skate it, said Ingram, who counted Lawrence as a close friend.

“Corey was kind of like a mentor of mine when I was a kid,” Ingram told the Journal-World at River Rat Print and Skate Monday. “When I was in high school, Corey would pick me up every Friday, and we’d head up to Eat Concrete (a skate park in Omaha) and he would teach me vert. That friendship was a close friendship, but also a mentorship.”

Naturally, Ingram said, folks who were close to Lawrence began thinking of how they could honor him. One of those people was Dan Askew, the co-owner of Escapist Skateboarding in Kansas City, Missouri. The pair got to talking about building a ramp, but weren’t sure where to put it besides one of their backyards. Word eventually traveled to Justin Shiney, the owner of River Rat, who reached out and helped them connect with the city about getting a public ramp installed. Now, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is on board as an official sponsor of the campaign.

Ingram, who is a co-founder of Lawrence-based MerchTable, is using the digital merchandising platform to offer items like apparel and skateboards for people in exchange for donations. He also co-owns Blue Collar Press, which helps with apparel production. Custom memorial bricks, which will form a walkway as one element of the completed project’s foundation, are also available for purchase on the storefront in a couple of sizes, depending on the donation amount.

“This is strictly just me and Dan Askew’s personalities, but we don’t like to ask for money; we like to offer something,” Ingram said. “So to us, Kickstarters and things like that … it feels like digital panhandling. We want to offer something. Dan put together a really cool skateboard, hired an artist out of pocket, and I worked with (Corey’s) family to design some T-shirts that would honor him, in their opinion.”

G.Ramps, a company based in Germany that builds vert ramps for the X-Games, will build and ship the ramp from overseas, Shiney said. It’ll also be the only ramp of its kind for hundreds of miles; he said the closest comparable ramp he’s aware of is in Colorado Springs.

photo by: Courtesy of Justin Shiney

Schematics detail what the ramp will look like once it’s built. G.Ramps, a German company that builds similar ramps for the X-Games, would complete the project and ship it overseas for installation.

Ramps like this draw people from miles away, Ingram said, but most of the time they’re privately owned and you have to know the right people to ride one. Having a public ramp should bring more people to Lawrence, he said, and grow interest in skateboarding among younger people.

“All these little Masters of the Universe need their Castle Grayskull,” Ingram said, referring to the sword and sorcery-themed media franchise. “People don’t realize when you have a fixture like that how much of the scene it becomes.”

The fundraising campaign, if it’s successful, would be the latest collaboration between Lawrence Parks and Recreation and community skating advocates like the Lawrence Skaters Association. It would also follow hot on the heels of another project at the same skate park, an expansion that was finished at the end of last year.

Parks and Rec Director Derek Rogers told the Journal-World Wednesday that, once the ramp was completed, the fundraising group would donate it to the city, which would then inspect it and install the concrete path for it at Centennial Skate Park.

Parks and Rec staff echo Shiney and Ingram in their excitement about the skate park scene in Lawrence. Spaces like that are an asset to the community, Rogers said. They offer an “unmistakable identity” to the area of a community they’re located in, he said, and they also act as a destination for folks visiting from elsewhere.

It’s also an opportunity to foster the development of skateboarding skills across the city’s three skate parks. Roger Steinbrock, who oversees the Parks and Rec marketing division, said that along with Centennial, Holcom Skate Park and Deerfield Skate Park have been designed for varying skill levels.

“I think by injecting this new thing into there, you’re going to see fostering (the) development of skating in Lawrence, as well,” Steinbrock said.

Steinbrock said that as a steward of the public, the department is most interested in responding to what community members want. That’s often projects like this one.

“It’s not us dictating to the community what parks are; it’s the community saying ‘This is what we want our space to be and our green spaces to be,'” Steinbrock said.

Every penny raised is going toward the cost of the ramp, Ingram said, and MerchTable is eating all of the processing fees for any merchandise orders. He said all of the companies partnering for the campaign were “all in.”

But $50,000 is a lot of money, even if they’re already more than a fifth of the way there. Ingram and Shiney said they’re planning to host a number of fundraising events in coming months. That could be anything from shows to art markets, Shiney said.

“The landing page and people’s generosity isn’t going to be enough; we’re going to have to really come up with creative ways to get people out to events and fundraise,” Ingram said.

With that in mind, there’s not a firm timeline for when the group plans to have the full amount raised for the project. Shiney said he hoped that it’s by around this summer, though, so the project can get rolling before winter.


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