Say Hello to Aaron Cayer: Entrepreneur, Community Leader, and GenNext Award Recipient

Photos by: Andrew Szeto, Sarah Robinson and Hayley Robateau

Aaron Cayer has been skateboarding for nearly 20 years and the passion he has for the sport is incredible. Aaron is the recent recipient of United Way’s GenNext award, for which he received in recognition of his interesting and engaging work around Ottawa’s skateboard community and beyond. Whether as an entrepreneur or community leader, Aaron continues to advocate for greater resources and creative solutions to promote and encourage free play.

It wasn’t until Aaron moved from the rural outskirts of Ottawa to a more central neighbourhood that Aaron picked up skateboarding.

“It was a way to make friends,” Aaron explains. A sport that was once Aaron’s way of making friends, is now a tool for him to build a better community and help others.

With a background in business and economics from both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, Aaron believes that, “Business is a much more powerful vehicle for social change.”

Aaron is the co-owner of the skate shop, Birling and for him the platform is simple: you can be and do more. The skate-shop is unique in many ways. Aside from selling a wide range of products that fulfill the needs of skateboarders and non-skateboarders alike, all their gear is made in either Canada or the United States. One of Aaron’s many skateboarding initiatives, For Pivots Sake, began in his store.

For Pivots Sake is a not-for-profit that started as a project through the store and according to Aaron is growing into its own endeavour. The premise behind the project is that lightly used skateboards are collected, refurbished, and redistributed to low income youth around Ottawa. The goal is to engage and mentor youth in the community.

“It doesn’t really make sense to just hand a skateboard to a kid and walk away,” Aaron explains. That is why the program focuses heavily on promoting free play, mentorship, and maintaining deeper connections with youth by actively connecting them with local skateboarders like himself.

Aaron is also the founder and co-director of the Ottawa Skateboard Community Association along with Meag Isaacs. From a young age Aaron began lobbying for greater skateboarding resources, and at the age of sixteen his efforts snowballed into the creation of Ottawa’s first concrete skate park. Despite going off to school, he never stopped thinking up ideas to change the city in ways that would benefit skateboarders.

“When we restarted all of this, we found that we really needed a platform to be able to communicate.” The OSCA is now a well-established vehicle that gives a voice to skateboarders in addressing challenges in the community, as well as recognizing new opportunities. The OSCA continues to work with the city of Ottawa to strategically promote the planning and building of skateboard parks and other skateboard-related recreational facilities.

According to Aaron, “We can make a more meaningful impact through skateboarding.”