Thanks to his big, adrenalin-filled dreams, Kelso Skatepark has become a reality.
It’s a real hub for the community, enjoyed by so many people – from kids learning to ride their bikes and teenagers flying down the ramps to parents chatting on benches with cups of tea.
Extreme sports enthusiast Ali started skating when he was younger, but there weren’t any facilities for him to hone his skills in his hometown of Kelso, in the rural Scottish Borders.
When he went travelling around the world, his passion for the sport was reignited. “I found it was really unifying,” he says. “Wherever I went, people would come together in skateparks to stay fit and learn sports. There was a real sense of community.”
He dreamed of creating this community spirit on his doorstep. When he got back home in 2011, he worked with the council to create a skatepark there. Five years on, it was no longer fit for purpose, so Ali ploughed his energy into creating an innovative state-of-the-art concrete one – the first of its kind in the area.
The ambitious project took two years and Ali, 30, didn’t just fundraise. He designed it, shovelled dirt and planted flowers. He did all this while juggling two businesses and his two young sons. He also has chronic asthma and is an ambassador for Asthma UK.
All his hard work was worth it, and now Kelso Skatepark is open 24/7. Not only is it “an escape for so many people”, it has also helped to tackle social issues and bring the community together.
“We’ve seen the park make a real difference to people’s lives,” says Ali. “There’s a few kids who are autistic and the thing they struggled with the most is social cues. They could be standing in the way but not realise it or say something upsetting without understanding why. But since we built the park, the kids are so much more relaxed. If it wasn’t here, they could be sat in their rooms not learning these skills.”
Ali also believes the park has provided a safe space for teens to channel their energies and deter them from destructive paths. “There are a lot of kids whose home lives aren’t stable and so they use the park as a place where they can let loose,” he says. “I know from being a young guy that if you have nothing in your area to put your energy into it’s hard not to go down those routes.”
Ali, who has reached the final of ITV’s Ninja Warrior UK for the past two years, has high hopes for the talented youngsters. “We’ve got a lot of kids who look like they could go pro and possibly become Olympians,” he adds. “The sky is the limit.
“To see my dream come to life and being enjoyed by so many people is a crazy thing.”