When children entered the picture for Josh Hurley and Sarah Hurley, it was more than a life-changing experience. It led to the creation of Switchlife, a nonprofit with a goal of changing the lives of underserved children.
Josh, a professional skateboarder, and his wife, Sarah, provide free skateboarding lessons and mentoring to youths throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, including Haltom City, which recently added the Switchlife program.
“Our goal is to provide empowerment and opportunity for under-served youth to redirect their paths, teaching life skills and character building through skateboarding lessons,” Josh said.
Switchlife, started in 2016, is a marriage of passions for Josh and Sarah, both Texas natives. Josh grew up in north Dallas and Sarah in H-E-B area, mainly Hurst. The couple’s blended family includes five children, ages 7 to 22.
Josh, a runaway as a teen, enjoyed a successful professional skateboarding career. But he also struggled with alcohol and substance abuse — until the birth of his son. Josh said he has been clean since 2011. Those battles, however, inspired him to create this program.
Sarah, a former foster mom, owns a private energy medicine practice, Heartlight Services, that focuses on healing behavioral and trauma issues in children and families. She also is a published author with a children’s workbook, “Heal Your Feelings,” meant to give children tools to empower and heal themselves emotionally.
Switchlife is designed to mentor youths on a physical, spiritual and mental level. According to statistics listed on their website, 23 percent of public school students in the Metroplex will not graduate from high school, and as of 2015, there were over 5,000 area children in foster care.
“We are very excited about partnering with the Switchlife skateboard mentoring program,” Haltom City Manager Keith Lane said. The program “has a track record of success in helping disadvantaged youth in communities,” Lane said.
Julie Orebaugh, Haltom City community projects coordinator, learned about the program via a Facebook message and immediately decided it needed to be in her community.
“I thought it sounded great and so much fun for our middle school-aged kids that come to the rec center after school,” she said. “Mentoring programs are something that the kids need, and it seemed like a great partnership.”
Josh normally charges around $100 for skateboard lessons. His free classes began in late November and are held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays at the Haltom City Recreation Center.
“They are on the tennis court, since we don’t have a skate park in the city,” Orebaugh said. “A generous donor donated two ramps to the program.”
The program includes much more than skating, though. Participants practice yoga, mindfulness and breath work, and participate in a goal-setting curriculum.
“We have four main components to our program: Prepare, Practice, Process and Persist,” Josh said. “The skateboard is the tool we use to attract the kids to the teachings we share.”
So far, about 10 youngsters a week participate in the program. Parks and Recreation director Chris Pruitt said Switchlife has brought a new energy to the rec center.
“We are seeing kids that normally haven’t been interested in any of our programs that are now engaged and excited about this new opportunity,” Pruitt said.
Participants do not even have to bring their own skateboard, as all gear and safety equipment is provided.
“We just had a donor equip our kids with their own boards and helmets to keep at home, though,” Josh said.
And experience is not required.
“We teach from beginners to more experienced skaters, meeting them where they are and helping them progress,” Josh said.
The program is also open to youths outside Haltom City. Switchlife will add classes at the Family Place in Dallas this month.
“The investment they are making with our kids in Haltom City is incredibly generous,” Orebaugh said. “They are passionately committed to giving back to these kids, and we are happy to have them here.”
To learn more about Switchlife, visit www.switchlife.org, or find it on Facebook and Instagram.