From tragedy to business
County natives turn accident into opportunity
Matt Harrelson Staff Writer
EAST ROCKINGHAM — Jason Parker and Israel Davis has always been extreme sports junkies.
So when Parker suffered a severe spinal injury in 2000 that left him a quadriplegic, that didn’t get either men down. In fact, the situation helped create a business opportunity.
As cousins, Parker and Davis both grew up in Rockingham, and ever since elementary school they were riding their skateboards and bikes wherever they could find a place. In 2000, Parker moved out to Iowa City, Iowa to live with Davis. And of course, their riding continued in the Midwest.
One day they wanted to hit a trail that they had never done before but were eager to try. After an afternoon of riding the trails, Parker decided he wanted to try it “one more time.”It was his last. Paker blazed through the trail — and as he figured he wasn’t going to make it, he tried to brake and pull his bike back down the hill. It cost him dearly.
“When I did that, it shot me up like a gainer on a diving board,” said Parker. “And when I landed on my shoulders and my back, it shattered my C-5 and C-6 vertebrae. That sent the fragments into my spinal cord.”
He hasn’t walked since. He will never walk again.
The two have always had the dream of designing skateboards. And with them getting older, they wanted to do some type of board to push towards the younger generation who want to become skaters and bikers.
“Kids who want to get a little edgy — but not dangerous,” Parker said.
Davis added that skateboarding and biking was a way for them to stay active and productive without really getting into bad stuff.
“I wanted to bring Jason up to Michigan, where I live now, and had applied for some funding from a private donor,” Davis said. “But the logistics of bringing him up there became apparent that it would be hard, so I had a different idea.”
From that point forward, a company was born.
They decided to use the donor money to produce 50 skateboard decks to see if they could sell them. If they were successful with that, then they would make more decks and perhaps T-shirts as well. Fundamental Formative Arts or FUNFA became the name. As an professor of ceramics at Kendall College of Arts and Design at Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich., Davis had been seeking out opportunities for students who are BMX bikers and skaters to assist him with wood shops. In exchange for their help, Davis would provide them with skateboard decks or bike parts.
“You can continue to do this stuff and still be a professional,” said Davis. “Skateboarding and BMX biking is so creative. They’re arts in themselves.”
Thirteen years ago, Parker had his accident. Davis comes home every other year and every time he brings his bicycle or skateboard and takes Parker on a trip. They go to Fayetteville, Wilmington or Charlotte. — basically anyplace they can find that has a ramp.
“If you wanna be good at this sport, you have to be disciplined. You have to ride and practice,” said Davis. “And that translate into what you do with your life as well.”
It’s an emerging business that the two have created though. The skateboards are being used as a springboard to get into other endeavors such as apparel. As funding continues to come in and grow, then they’ll do more designs.
On the bottom of their decks reads a mission statement for FUNFA and a short story dedicated to Parker.
“The mission of FUNFA is to promote the active pursuit of a creative lifestyle through art, culture, skateboarding and BMX.”
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