Aaron took up skateboarding as a substitute for the surfing he had grown up with in California and had to leave behind when he moved to Memphis to work at St. Jude in 2006. Shortly thereafter, he built a skateboard ramp (called a half-pipe) in his backyard and met Ron, a junior-high student in the neighborhood who came over to practice skateboarding. Aaron began teaching him, and their friendship was born. They spent a lot of time together. Ron would come over to skateboard, then stay and have dinner and play cards with Aaron and his wife and two sons. To celebrate Ron’s high-school graduation in 2010, the family traveled with Ron to California where they surfed and visited skateboard parks.  Aaron tells us that Ron is like another son to him. He loves Ron’s parents and is honored and humbled to be able to accompany their son on his journey through life. So far, Aaron has watched Ron grow from a neighborhood kid learning to skateboard to an artist-in-residence who has just won a major poster award.

Ron says that until he met Aaron and was introduced to the Memphis skateboard community, he thought that only teenagers skateboarded. He tells us how welcoming and accepting that diverse community is. They range in age from teens to 70s, come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and are all good friends who encourage each other to be themselves, no matter how weird!

Ron tells us that he progressed in skateboarding quickly because of easy access to his neighbor’s backyard half-pipe. He credits both skateboarding and Aaron with teaching him a lot about determination and persistence, and that you sometimes get hurt more if you chicken out.

Ron shares that Aaron has encouraged his academic and artistic accomplishments, as well as his skateboarding. Ron was awarded a scholarship to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where he majored in painting. He has returned to his hometown where he is happy to be doing what he loves as the Art Ministry Intern at First Congo Church where he has been given a studio and a place to live right above it. Additionally, Ron was selected to do this year’s poster for a very popular neighborhood festival. People come from out of town to attend the festival and collect the posters from year to year. He feels honored to be a part of Memphis art history as the 2017 Cooper-Young poster artist.

Aaron tells us that sharing an activity together is an easy way to get to know people. He ends with encouraging us to share with others what we love to do; that’s how he and Ron built a special friendship, enlarging their definition of family and their hearts.