Airborne skater attempting a trick at The Bays indoor skatepark. Photo by Ben Skow Media
Airborne skater attempting a trick at The Bay indoor skatepark. Photo by Ben Skow Media

Caden Pearson has a passion for helping out his community in many unique ways. As general manager at The Bay, a Lincoln nonprofit organization, giving back has been a big part of his life.

One of the main attractions at The Bay, which offers a wide range of youth services including digital art lessons, is an inside skatepark, which is never short of skaters. The building, on 2005 Y Street, is also connected to a local coffee shop fort a drink or bite to eat.

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The Future Belongs to the Misfits on the red brick wall at The Bay.

What does that poster mean?

Growing up, we were all misfits. We all started in small towns and were a bit disconnected from the rest of the community. Skaters and dirt bikers in a football town, that sort of thing. Not everybody fits into the normal stuff, we tried to make that our motto here.

So, how was The Bay started?

The Bay was first started in late 2010 at the Gateway Mall here in Lincoln. The skatepark here on Y Street was opened in 2013 and was mostly just a skatepark until 2016 when the coffee shop and venue opened up. We were the ones running the coffee shop until March 2020, we teamed up with Goldenrod Pastries – so they took over the café. The Rabble Mill merger happened in 2018.

What exactly is Rabble Mill?

Rabble Mill is essentially an umbrella nonprofit. Back in 2018, another nonprofit called Hear Nebraska was founded in Omaha by Andy Norman. Andy teamed up with Mike Smith, who originally founded The Bay, both of whom grew up together. Both were involved with a lot of local photojournalism and music and realized quickly they were both walking into a lot of the same funding. Since we all knew each other, it made a lot of sense to merge. It’s an umbrella profit for other involvements like Skate for Change and Rabble Media.

Could you explain more about those two other nonprofits?

Skate for Change is more of an idea than a nonprofit. It started out when founder Mike Smith would skate around downtown with just his board and a backpack full of either socks, water or sandwiches. A couple of his friends started taking notice, then all of a sudden one day, they had 60 people on skateboards riding through the city handing out water bottles and socks to people. It’s grown to a global level – there’s more than 100 chapters worldwide. It’s really just about skaters giving back to their communities and rebutting the idea that skateboarders are only causing trouble. On the other hand, Rabble Media is for-youth, by-youth with a publication magazine that’s located here in our digital arts lab at The Bay. They made a lot of voter guides and helped advocate for social issues.

Rabble Mill was outspoken on a lot of social issues this past year, especially when it came to promoting voting among the younger generations. Was The Bay actively involved in that promotion?

We wanted to spread the message on getting the younger demographic that can vote, involved in voting – no matter who they’re voting for. We think it’s really important that they’re using their voice and continue to talk about things they believe really matter.

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Colorful mural next to The Bay’s halfpipe

How did you get involved with The Bay?

My older brother, Shayne, started working with The Bay when they were first at Gateway Mall. He fell in love with the idea immediately. All throughout high school, I would leave our town during the weekends and drive up to Lincoln to help volunteer, then I’d just crash on my brother’s couch. I started part-time in 2018, focusing on our All-Access Pass program, which is basically a free ticket to anything we do here for those who aren’t able to pay for sessions. In 2020, I became communities manager where I worked with local organizations and partnerships. Just a couple weeks ago, I became general manager here at The Bay.

Congratulations. What has been your favorite part of your journey at The Bay that’s brought you to where you are today?

I’ve always been a firm believer in connecting people with opportunities. I think that so many people need an opportunity, but each one might look different. Through The Bay, we’ve been able to build a lot of really positive connections with a lot of social services here in Lincoln, like Food Bank and CenterPointe. We’ve been able to have a really special connection with the kids where they trust us to step in and connect them to these services that can provide tangible needs. There’s always been this unofficial social work side of The Bay just from the nature of the neighborhood we’re in and the people we serve. Helping people in those ways is what I’m super passionate about. It’s really special to give other kids, who just like me, didn’t fit in with what they had – a space to be themselves.

Brennan Merkle is a senior Sports Media and Communication major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has a passion for the details and data analysis that coincides within the field of sports and the nonstop revolving discussion around it.