Walthill, Nebraska is in the midst of a revival. The small community boasts a beautiful library, school, and mental health facility. There are new businesses on Main Street, concerted efforts to improve housing, and plans to restore Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte’s historic hospital. And, of course, there’s a new skatepark—a symbol of the hope, joy, and energy that has taken root and extended its reach to every corner of the rural Nebraska community located in the heart of the Omaha Reservation.
Community leaders including Michael Grant have been working hard for years to overcome the many challenges their beloved community faces. “It’s all about moving forward. It’s all about progression,” Grant said. “It’s all about making sure that progression is going to benefit the next seven generations.”
But the community’s challenges became terrifyingly urgent on a fateful night in 2020 when 15 teenagers and young adults attempted suicide. A skatepark wasn’t going to solve all of Walthill’s problems, but it was a critical ingredient for a community that was desperate to give local youth a healthy outlet.
They established an NCF affiliated fund to which Omaha’s Lozier Foundation made a sizeable
contribution — enough to construct the park which local students took a key role in designing. Media attention for the park quickly inspired more contributions from individuals across the country. Those are being used for future programming.
Sixteen-year-old John Sherman, better known as Junior by his friends, family, and neighbors, has been skateboarding since he was just five years old, though this is the first time he’s enjoyed such ready access to a park of this caliber.
“It means the world to me. This skatepark is probably the best thing that’s happened in this town so far. This skatepark—it means everything to me.”