LIVINGSTON — Looking back on that day Becki Carlson is glad she listened to the advice of that 14-year-old boy.
“I was at a neighbor's house and her son, who is 14 years old, came out and he’s like, 'Becki, Becki, give us a ride to the skate park. Tony Hawk is here.' And I'm like, 'No, he is not,'" she said.
That boy was telling the truth. While on a family road trip, legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk made a quick pit stop in Livingston. This local skate park, in particular, has been the beneficiary of a $25,000 grant from Hawk's foundation. The time he took out of his day to give those children a once-in-a-lifetime memory will forever resonate with those who were able to witness.
“The best part for me was watching the children be so happy," said Livingston resident Nicole Maher. "It was a moment that I always hoped for but I didn’t think would really happen.”
But in the background of the children laughing, skating and getting autographs from the best skateboarder in the history of the sport was a long-awaited moment for Carlson. Hawk had no idea how much their ensuing conversations would mean to her and her family.
“He immediately came off the bus and came up to me, and I introduced myself to him and said, 'I met you two years ago and you signed a deck for my son who was named after you,'" said Carlson. "Sadly he has since passed. And Tony immediately just looked at me and said, 'Can I please hug you?' And then just put his arms around me and hugged me.”
In October of 2018, Carlson's son, Tony Gadberry, lost his life to suicide. He was 13 years old. Teen suicide has long cast a dark cloud over the youth of the Livingston community.
“I don’t want to go to anymore funerals for children," Maher said. "Whatever I have to do to not have to do that, I will do.”
Realizing the gravity of what their encounter meant, Hawk went above and beyond for Carlson and her children Sean-Liam and Evelyn. Their brief time together brought a much-needed sense of healing into the family's lives that afternoon.
“Tony Hawk took the time out to meet my family and embrace my family. I don’t know that he’ll ever realize the extent of what that meant to us that day," Carlson said. "It was like my son came and got to visit us again.”
“My Tony would’ve gotten on the bus and tried to go home with Tony Hawk, and he would’ve gone out there and skated with him and did the best he could to try and show him up,” added Carlson.
Gadberry may not have been there in person to witness his skateboard-loving family meet Hawk, but, as Carlson would tell you, he was there, and their paths were meant to cross again.
(Editor's note: If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health and is feeling suicidal, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Remember that you are never alone.)