LUNENBURG — Once set, concrete does not grow, it does not move.
But, for five local students, it has certainly served as a vehicle for change.
In 2018, Griffin Caiozzo, Aidan Moore, Chris Roy, Aidan Swift and Mason Whitcomb set out with a goal: to build a skate park, their own oasis in the recreational desert that was Lunenburg. Now, on the back of their friendship and through a shared passion and determination, that goal has nearly come to fruition.
Their project has changed along the way, growing ever larger and more complex — as of Saturday, Nov. 19, the five had raised more than $200,000 for the park. Likewise, they themselves have undergone a transformation, as the quintet, now seniors at Lunenburg High School, see the once selfish endeavor as their gift to the next generation of skaters in Lunenburg.
“This whole project started as something we wanted for ourselves,” Caiozzo said. “So it’s cool to see how it has grown beyond that, turned into something more for the town and surrounding communities and how we’ve grown alongside it.”
“Having the opportunity to leave something for future generations, something bigger than us, it’s just been an incredible ride,” he said.
It began in the classroom, part of their school’s “Genius Hour” — a program meant to encourage creativity and provide students the opportunity to explore their passions in the classroom. After a few failed projects — the “Missle Glove,” among others — the boys landed on their could-be skate park.
A modest venture at first, “a few thousand dollars and some concrete,” according to Caiozzo, the boys planned to build the park themselves. But the project quickly grew and, soon enough, they found themselves in front of the town’s Parks Commission and Select Board — a “terrifying experience” that the group meticulously practiced for.
“We ran through our slideshow for months before we brought it to them,” Caiozzo said. “We practiced and practiced and practiced every day after school, just trying to walk through it and speak in front of each other without laughing or having to start over.”
Swift said it was “easily” the most nervous he had ever been — the group agreed. “It was incredibly difficult, but we managed to put it all together,” he said.
Afterward, the Select Board awarded them a land grant and the work truly began. While locals seemed supportive, few others took them seriously early on.
“Our first fundraiser was big for us, it was pretty successful, too,” Whitcomb said. “We raised around $3,000 and were just so excited — but it got a lot harder from there.”
Moore said they “could barely get any donations” and that they were “ignored” often. “Not a lot of people are going to take a bunch of seventh graders asking for money seriously,” he said.
Despite that, the group persisted. Later, they received their first “exhilarating” contribution: $2,500 from Workers Credit Union.
“At that time, I don’t think any of us had ever handled $500 at a time, let alone $2,500,” Caiozzo said. “It was amazing to see that amount of money come in all at once.”
Soon enough, the group began to make a name for themselves. They met with a number of state legislators interested in their project, were interviewed by NPR’s WBUR in Boston and were even contacted by representatives of the Tony Hawk Foundation as donations and sponsorships began to pour in.
“After we sort of built ourselves up and had a bit of a track record, we started to see some serious donations and support,” Moore said. “People saw us and started to take us seriously and the whole thing really took off from there.”
In the years since the park’s inception, the group has seen significant contributions from several local businesses and organizations, including a recent $10,000 grant courtesy of the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. Swift said each donation and financial milestone has been “just as exciting as the next.”
“Every step of the way has just been so amazing,” he said. “Our first $1,000 raised, $10,000, $100,000 — it’s just been incredible to see and, with each donation, we know we’re that much closer to our end goal.”
Now, at the doorstep of their $225,000 goal, the five said they are reviewing building proposals and that they expect the park to be completed sometime next spring. And, as they approach the finish line, each said the park is now their “legacy” in town, a representation of their “character, dedication and personal growth” since the project began.
“When I’m 50 and don’t live in Lunenburg anymore, it’ll be nice to take a trip back and see the skatepark that I was able to build with my friends,” Whitcomb said. “It’s something meaningful, a sort of monument to our friendship and our time together.”
“I think it’ll be cool to look back and see our dedication through the years,” Moore said. “I think it’s just a positive symbol of our character, who we are and the fact that we didn’t give up despite struggles early on.”
“We’ve persevered, persisted for six years. We’ve remained determined and, to me, the park is always going to symbolize that,” he said.
The group also stressed that each and every supporter has proven “critical” to the success of their project and thanked those that have supported them financially, logistically or otherwise, over the past five years.
“To every supporter we’ve had, we’re extremely grateful for the opportunity you have provided us, the chance you have given us to be successful,” Caiozzo said. “I can say for certain that we wouldn’t be where we are right now without the support and love from our community — we can’t thank you all enough.”