Seymour skateboarder drops in for award

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Seymour’s Jayden Sheridan, who founded Gnarly Neighbours, is one of four Victorian finalists in the Young Australian of the Year Award. ​

Seymour’s ‘skateboard dude’ Jayden Sheridan has landed a nomination for Young Australian of the Year in recognition of his work to found not-for-profit youth group Gnarly Neighbours.

Mr Sheridan quickly became Seymour’s ‘king of the kids’ after starting Gnarly Neighbours in 2021.

Between 150 to 200 children and young people each week flock to the youth groups’ free skateboarding sessions to learn about the sport and engage in safe risk-taking behaviour – providing an outlet and positive mentorship for many who otherwise would go without.

At the heart of Gnarly Neighbours is Mr Sheridan’s drive to address disadvantage in Seymour and shape the town into a better environment for young people.

A troubled childhood in Seymour and bad influences led Mr Sheridan down the ‘wrong path’ when he was in his early teens.

“When school life didn’t work out for me and I couldn’t be at home, the skate park was kind of my safe place, my sanctuary,” Mr Sheridan said.

“But growing up, there wasn’t always positive role models at the skate park, so that kind of led me to go from trouble to getting into trouble.”

Trouble with the police and drug use took focus in his formative years.

“I was just angry at the world,” Mr Sheridan said.

But at 17, his life took a turn.

“I found out that I was gonna be a father,” Mr Sheridan said.

“I promised as soon as I found out that my child wasn’t going to have the same upbringing as me. I turned my life around for him.”

Mr Sheridan credits his son, Brooklyn, now 10 years old, as being the catalyst for Gnarly Neighbours.

He said he was eager to ‘change the town’ when he moved back to Seymour from Melbourne before the pandemic to address disadvantage and ‘bridge the gap of socio-economic boundaries’.

“I hit the ground running when I moved back and started taking six boards down to the park and just offering to teach people to skate, and then all of a sudden it just exploded and I needed to get more boards.”

The Seymour community were quick to rally around Mr Sheridan and his team with funding for equipment the organisation needed to operate.

To this day, every workshop Gnarly Neighbours hosts is free of charge.

“We don’t like the idea of kids having to miss out because they might not be fortunate enough,” Mr Sheridan said.

Gnarly Neighbours hosts sessions in Puckapunyal, Seymour and Nagambie four times a week and attends schools up to three times a week, with plans to expand further in the coming years.

Mr Sheridan said he was ‘stoked’ to receive the nomination, but maintained that he didn’t need the win.

“What I’m going to do with just the nomination in itself is going to be enough,” he said.

“I do want to use this to help get us the support we need for the kids and continue to drive it and grow it so it can help a lot more other people.”

Mr Sheridan said he was enjoying celebrating the nomination with the community who continued to support him.

Mr Sheridan is one of four nominated for the award in Victoria.

The Victorian recipient will be announced at 6.45pm on November 14.

The recipient will progress to the next level of judging and go in the running for the national title of Young Australian of the Year.

Gnarly Neighbours has been recognised as a Public Benevolent Institution, PBI, and is endorsed as a deductible gift recipient.

People can donate to Gnarly Neighbours at www.gnarlyneighbours.com.au.