Tonawanda News

May 16, 2014

Cookout to raise funds for expansion of skatepark

By Jessica Bagley jessica.bagley@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A skatepark named in memory of a Tonawanda teen may soon get an upgrade thanks to a local nonprofit and two award-winning chefs. 

The Gregory Hayes Holler Community Skatepark was built in memory of the teen who died unexpectedly in 2008.

The GHH Memorial Fund is holding a cajun-cookout fundraiser on Sunday, which will include food by JJ Richert and his brother, Kevin, who own Torches, Smoke on the Water and the Garage Deli, to raise money for an expansion of the skatepark. 

The event runs from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. at Eastern Park on Fillmore Avenue.

“After we have the fundraiser, JJ, Kevin and I are going to see exactly what the kids want,” Don Holler, Gregory’s father, said. “There’s no definite plan yet, we’ll have to see what happens financially and what they want when we see the dollars and cents, but the kids are excited.”

Gregory was a BMX rider, and after he died, his family began organizing a fundraising effort to build a new skatepark in his memory. The community raised $80,000 in 2010, with a big chunk coming from the Pepsi Refresh Project and an additional $5,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation.

The Richerts were also involved, hosting a pig roast for the effort.

“We raised quite a bit of money at the roast,” Holler said. “Since then we became close friends.”

The Hollers originally envisioned a 10,000-square-foot facility, but decided to build a smaller version to provide kids with a park sooner rather than later. 

After years of fundraising and construction, the 5,200-square-foot facility in Ives Pond Park opened in 2011. Local teens, as well as kids from outside the Tonawandas, immediately began frequenting the park, bringing their boards, BMX bikes and inline skates.

Once the project was complete, the Hollers’ efforts transitioned to raising money for the park’s maintenance, scholarships and other charities.

“We really had no intention of starting anything new at the skatepark,” Holler said. “JJ and Kevin are former skateboarders, and they were the ones who had the idea for the expansion.”

The Richert brothers called Holler with the idea after visiting the park one day. 

“I live in the city and occasionally Kevin and I will ride our bikes over there. It’s pretty cool, it’s really well done and the kids enjoy it,” JJ Richert said. “Kevin and I used to skateboard, and we thought the park could use another couple features ... I’d like to see a sound system so the kids can skate to music, and we just wanted to try to do what we could to improve it a little bit and help it get better every year.” 

The Richerts and the Holler family then planned the fundraiser for Sunday as part of the effort to expand the park. The event will feature a race car display, music, a 50/50, a basket raffle, games for kids and face painting.

JJ and Kevin will be cooking jambalaya, gumbo, corn on the cob, hot dogs and chili. Smoke on the Water’s Bourbon Bread Pudding will also be available, and there will be chips, salad and other baked goods. 

All of the proceeds will go to the park, Holler said.

Tickets are $20 presale and $25 at the door. Students’ tickets are $8, and admission for kids under the age of 8 are free. Tickets are being sold at Smoke on the Water, Torches, city hall, the recreation department at 150 Fillmore Ave. and the American Legion Post 264 at 60 Main St.

Those interested can also call Don and Nancy Holler at 693-9407 for tickets.

In the event of rain, the cookout will be moved to the American Legion.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.

IF YOU GO WHAT: Cajun cookout for expansion at Gregory Hayes Holler Community Skatepark WHEN: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday WHERE: Eastern Park on Fillmore Avenue TICKETS: Available at Smoke on the Water, Torches, city hall, the recreation department at 150 Fillmore Ave. and the American Legion Post 264 at 60 Main St. Or call Don and Nancy Holler at 693-9407 for tickets. HOW MUCH: $20 presale, $25 at the door. Student tickets are $8, and kids are free.