Three boys armed with a baseball bat, a tire iron and boundless potential gave Ben Warner his revelation to longboard 2,400 miles across the country.
It was last summer when the Tacoma native recalls being confronted while riding his board at South D and 96th Streets. The boys, all gang members, were looking to jump him.
Before trouble started, Warner reached out to the teens. One of them revealed how he grew up with gangs.
"He looked at me with a real sincere look in his eyes and said, 'My dad's a Crip. That's how I'll end up one day,'" Warner recalled. "I told him, 'You're better than that.'"
Although the standoff ended peacefully, it stuck with the University of Washington Tacoma student. Warner remembers asking himself that night: How could kids succeed when the streets tell them they can't?
He pondered the question as he rode his longboard another 12 miles.
Then it hit him. He'd show kids that every one of them has potential. He'd show them that there are places – such as their neighborhood Boys & Girls Club – where the prospect of success is championed, not shot down.
And he'd show them by longboarding, an activity the Franklin Pierce High School graduate has done since he was 15.
Today, Warner is 25 and preparing to make good on that revelation. In March, he plans to ride his board from San Diego to Savannah, Ga., stopping along the way to talk to communities about the importance of after-school programs.
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