SAN DIEGO — Kanten Russell spent 12 years as a professional skateboarder but found his true passion after he retired, building skate parks for kids.
He’s helped design and create at least six skate parks in San Diego — but there’s one in El Cajon that holds extra special value.
It was built for 12-year-old Rocco Worley, an avid skater with a rare tumor in his cerebellum that required surgery, chemotherapy and plenty of bedrest in 2017.
“When can I get out of this stupid hospital?” is all Rocco could ask himself.
But during his treatment last year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Rocco’s request. It wasn’t a special trip or to meet someone famous. His wish was for a custom-built skate park in his own backyard.
“I wanted something I could practice (on) because I want to become pro like Kanten some day,” said Rocco. “So I just wanted to pick a skate park, so I could practice and practice every day.”
So Russell, the Point Loma native and pro-skater-turned-engineer, helped design Rocco a one-of-a-kind skate mecca.
“It was all Rocco,” said Russel, a Project Manager and Lead Designer for Stantec Action Sports Group. “I said, ‘Here’s some ideas, what do you think?’ And he was like, ‘I have some ideas, I’m going to show you.'”
“I was so excited when he came because I just love to skateboard and I don’t have many friends that do skateboard, so it was great meeting someone who was really good at skateboarding,” said Rocco.
He added that one of his favorite parts about his skate park is trying out new tricks with his younger brother and friends.
“There’s a risk with everything, so once you do it, there’s not a better feeling than landing a new trick, learning something new,” said Rocco.
“When you meet him and see him riding around and his attitude … that to me really speaks to a lot of people’s lives, as inspiration to just keep pushing on no matter what you’re going through,” said Russell.
The former pro said skateboarding teaches one of life’s greatest lessons: You’re going to fall down and you’re going to get hurt, but you learn to pick yourself up and keep going, a message Rocco lives fearlessly everyday.
“You can always learn something new, it’s just endless possibilities,” he said.
“I definitely have learned a lot from him,” said Russell. “Like I said, the positive attitude, perseverance. We can all have those moments where we’re struggling through something, and sometimes it’s just a reminder that no matter what happens, it’s inspiring to push through whatever it is you’re having a challenge with.”
Rocco continues to fight his cancer and is currently between chemotherapy sessions. His parents say the tumor has shrunk, so treatment has helped.