GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — They say experience is life’s greatest teacher.
“When you fall, you’ve got to get back up,” said Amanda Westra, Chill West Michigan’s local coordinator. “I think that’s kind of a great metaphor for anything you do in life.”
That’s exactly what Chill West Michigan aims to give local kids – an experience.
The nonprofit, created by the founders of Burton Snowboards, has aimed to teach kids important life lessons through board sports since 1995.
“We just use curriculum and board sports as a vehicle for empowerment,” said Westra.
With the help of some mentors, Westra runs the West Michigan chapter of the nonprofit.
She works with agencies like the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids.
“They teach us a lesson every week,” said Sam Kerney, a participant from the Boys and Girls Club. “Today we learned about persistence. Sometimes we learned about patience and respect. Courage.”
Whether it be paddle boarding, wake boarding or even snowboarding, Chill’s program makes sure to teach the kids important lessons and encourages them to use their new skills in everyday life.
“Today, we’re working on persistence and perseverance,” said Westra. “It’s kind of like a little over halfway point. So, we kind of build our fundamentals out on the water. And now, it’s really about just you know, persevering and getting a little bit farther and pushing yourself a little bit harder.”
“A lot of these kids are just coming from tougher situations. And so we try to use core values of Chill to really help just teach them life lessons,” said Levi Ryerson, Chill West Michigan mentor.
While every experience is different and some sports prove to be more challenging than others, by the end the result is always the same.
“When they get off the boards, a lot of times they’re nervous, unsure of themselves. And when they get off the board and they’ve seen what they accomplish. It’s just the best feeling in the world,” said Westra.
The West Michigan chapter of Chill is always looking to work with new agencies that work with kids ages 11 to 19 years old.