Young artist brings teary response to her board story
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
Kirstyn Strootman might have been the most unlikely person to bring a room full of people to the brink of tears.
But when the 10-year-old was called up Friday at the Main Street Café to explain the decorations on her board that was auctioned off to benefit a breast cancer charity, Strootman seemed humble while others read her inscription and some in the front row could be seen fighting back the tears.
“I painted this skateboard to fight against breast cancer and to raise money for research and to find a cure. Even though I’m only 10-years-old, I helped and you can too. Every little bit makes a difference,” read the inscription on the front of the skateboard deck that was painted with a mermaid.
And despite her age, Strootman is already dealing with the devastating effects of breast cancer and seeing what it can do to those affected and the loved ones that feel helpless.
“I have a friend that has a mother that has breast cancer,” Strootman said. “So this is something that I’m dealing with right now almost on a daily basis.”
More than a hundred people packed the Main Street Cafe not for just their regular cup of joe or their average Friday hanging.
The event marked the unveiling of the joint venture between Frank Alvarado and Geanette Floyd as a small scale local skateboarding outfit that is looking to get back to the roots and the true spirit of what the sport was born out of.
Friday, though, was more about breast cancer – with all of the proceeds from the 22 hand-painted boards as well as the T-shirts going directly to the “Skate the Lake” breast cancer fundraiser event that has become Alvarado’s passion since organizing a Manteca team for local resident Katie McKenzie who succumbed to the disease in December.
The grueling course around Lake Tahoe took more than its toll on Alvarado’s body. He hit a wall near the finish line and had to be motivated by another participant to keep on going.
When he hit that final 500-yard stretch, and saw the throngs of screaming fans as well as family and friends, he knew that he had done something – especially when Katie walked out into the riding lane to congratulate her team captain.
He gave her the board he rode that day – a special edition that his kids had purchased for him as a surprise present.
“I don’t ever want to have to give a board like that again to my mom, my sister, my friends, or any of the ladies that are in this room today,” he said emotionally. “I will fight for this cause until the day that I die.”
Alvarado says that the company has been 24 years in the making – ever since he first stepped foot on a board purchased by his father to give his son something constructive to do – and the idea has never been far from his mind.
The combination of being an artist and a skater made Friday’s event the perfect junction to raise funds for a cause that he not only believes in, but hopes to get even more Manteca residents involved in what the event represents.
As for the turnout – with bidding topping $300 for some decks – he was speechless.
“It’s amazing to see so many people come out here to support this – I really don’t know what to say,” Alvarado said. “There are so many people here that I can’t even look out at the crowd right now – it’s a crazy night.”
While Alvarado himself decorated the underside of some of the decks that were up for auction, friends also lent a hand in creating what was both a successful event and something that managed to launch a new company while at the same time raise the awareness of breast cancer in our country.
Jessica Johnson – the wife of Alvarado’s best friend – used her artistic skills on several of the pieces and says that she was honored to be able to participate in such an important event.
“I was flattered when Frank asked me if I wanted to do this – it allows me to participate in one of my favorite hobbies which is art while at the same time promoting a greater cause,” Johnson said. “It was a flattering night but it was also an emotional night – hearing the stories of some of the families involved left me standing there in tears.”
While the launch party put on by Alvarado and Floyd and graciously hosted by Jakkie Arellano of Main Street Café was well received by those in attendance, Alvarado was hoping that it was only a glimpse of the Manteca contingent that will be making the trek to Lake Tahoe – which takes this place this year on Aug. 29 – to skate the course against breast cancer.
It’s something, he said, that has affected everyone at least at some point in their life, and standing up and doing something about it is what he plans to do.
“I want the group that goes up there this year to really represent Manteca and what we’re about,” Alvarado said. “This is like a dream come true for me to be standing here, and it feels great to be able to do something positive about it.”
For more information about how to get involved with the Skate the Lake event or to train with members of Manteca’s team e-mail email@example.com. The company’s website can also be viewed at www.vidalocaskateboards.com.