Prague-based professional skateboarder Lukáš Daněk, 28-years-old, has built a strong name for himself within the European skateboarding community. The nimble sidewalk surfer first set foot on a skateboard at the tender age of 17 and hasn’t looked back since. Riding for big name brands such as Nike SB, Adidas, and Quicksilver, the active rider’s technical skill and ability to push skateboarding to the limits attracts well-deserved attention everywhere he goes.
Having spent much of his teens and early- to mid-twenties traveling Europe (as part of branded skate teams, competing, and showcasing) Lukáš witnessed first-hand some of the lesser-publicised social issues affecting under-privileged children within both inner-city and rural communities. Being of Roma descent, the suffering and alienation he saw within the Czech Republic’s Roma community struck a deep chord and eventually led to his founding the Ride For Happiness project; a unique way of combining street culture and activism.
Ride for Happiness (RFH) started in 2014. Lukáš, with his wife, Karolina Mirga Daněk, runs workshops for children with a skateboarding and artistic focus. Karolina (also of Roma descent) is the co-founder and main leader of ternYpe (International Roma Youth Network), an organization that works for the empowerment and mobilisation of Roma youth, and promotes mutual respect and cooperation between Roma and non-Roma citizens.
Lukáš and Karolina met in the summer of 2013 at an event organized by ternYpe and the rest is history. “We had many ideas for projects that we could work on together,” says Karolina fondly, when speaking about cooperation her husband. Karolina continues: “We think in a very similar way and both have completely different skill-sets, knowledge, and connections, which makes working together very creative.”
The RFH team has heaps of experience working for different social, sport, and art organizations and initiatives, enabling them to conduct vibrant and stimulating workshops for the children to attend.
Lukáš speaks proudly about the project and its aims. “Ride For Happiness aims to discover and nurture new talents in sport, art, and music while promoting positive role models. Working with the Roma community is crucial for us. Through Ride [For Happiness] we want to break [down] negative stereotypes while fighting racism and discrimination of [the] Roma community.”
RFH have been able to utilise their connections to benefit those members of the community they feel get overlooked or forgotten. “I talked to people in the skate world about the idea of Ride for Happiness, and people from Vans and Restart Skateboards caught it straight away,” says Lukáš. “Restart Skateboards threw in almost 20 decks for kids to try.”
The children were even able to design their own skateboards thanks to materials provided by Polish arts collective Jaw Dikh. As an added motivation and inspiration to the kids, Vans donated hundreds of children’s shoe samples in vibrant colors which were distributed at kindergartens throughout the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland where RFH workshops are held.
Via skateboarding workshops, free creative art and play, story-telling and sport-based activities, Ride For Happiness is spreading the love throughout the Czech Republic and beyond. In such a short time, the project has grown thanks to the obvious passion and dedication of the husband and wife team and their band of volunteers.
What does the future hold for the movement? “We have realized that Ride for Happiness can really make a difference in different communities.” says Lukas. “We want to grow and have a supportive network of communities around us.”
All photos courtesy of Ride for Happiness Facebook page.