Park memorializes late Scout - Catholic Courier

Park memorializes late Scout

The new portable skateboard park in the Village of Dryden’s Montgomery Park is about half the size of a basketball court, and as large as one young man’s heart.

Chris Ackley, a parishioner of Holy Cross Church in neighboring Freeville, was talking to his parents one Saturday in June 2005 about how some of the kids in his Boy Scout troop had left Scouting to concentrate on riding their skateboards.

He added that he was concerned that some of the skateboarders might get hurt, noting that he had just seen one boy skateboarding dangerously around a gas station.

“I have to do something, Mom and Dad,” he had told his parents. “I have to get some action for the skateboarders.”

Patricia and Allen Ackley recently recalled their son — whom they said they adopted through diocesan Catholic Charities — as an Eagle Scout and former altar server who wanted to build a skateboard park so young people in his community would have a safe place to pursue their hobby.

“If I show an interest in their sport, maybe I can get them back into Scouts,” they recalled their son saying.
On June 14, 2005, Chris was driving around collecting signatures for a petition he planned to give to Dryden officials asking them to build a skateboard park. Unfortunately, the 18-year-old lost control of his vehicle at one point and was killed, his parents said.

What Dryden lost in the accident was a teenager who quietly served his community, a 2004 recipient of the diocese’s Hands of Christ award and a friend to many, young and old.

His parents noted he was a NASCAR fan, a cocaptain of the Dryden High School swim team and “a big kid” who renovated an entranceway at a local veterans’ home as part of a Scouting service project.

His father added that he was stunned by the stories of Chris’ selflessness that he heard at his child’s wake and funeral. One parent told him that Chris had tutored her daughter in biology after school, helping her to pass the class. Chris never even told his parents about this good deed, his father said.
Dianna Ink, an active Scouting parent, suffered a back injury years ago that precludes her from heavy lifting. She said Chris took note of her injury whenever he went camping with the Scouts.

“He would be the first kid to grab my stuff and pick it up before he would grab his stuff,” she said.

Diane Colf, a friend of the Ackleys and a parishioner of Holy Cross, recalled the excitement in her friend Patricia Ackley’s voice when Ackley’s adopted infant son arrived. As Colf watched Chris grow, she said she saw a boy becoming a man who dutifully tended to his family, including his grandparents, and “who was always there ready to help.”

“A lot of his work always seemed to be behind the scenes,” she said. “He was generally not a, ‘Hey, look at me,’ type of guy.”

Yet, his deeds are no longer cloaked in anonymity. The skateboard park operating in Dryden three days a week, five hours at a time bears the moniker “Christopher Ackley Memorial Skateboard Park.”

The facility was dedicated in a ceremony May 5 attended by hundreds of people, including several of Chris’ out-of-state relatives, his parents said. Father Scott Kubinski, pastor of Holy Cross, and Anne-Marie Brogan, pastoral associate, said a prayer of blessing.

Reba Taylor, mayor of the Village of Dryden, said the park is a testament to Chris and his family. Ironically, she said the young man’s death probably secured the park’s future because it triggered an outpouring of support and donations from the community.

“It really was a tragedy that they turned around,” she said.
Such corporate sponsors as BorgWarner Automotive, International Food Network and RF Solutions helped out, as well as the town’s Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund, which provided helmets and skateboards for use at the park.

The portable park cost about $15,000 to establish, according to Steve Trumbull, supervisor of the Town of Dryden, in which the Village of Dryden is located. The park consists of ramps and rails, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes to set up each time, he said.

Trumbull said the skateboard park is an excellent example of intermunicipal cooperation, as well as a testament to the Ackleys.

“They’re the reason it’s there,” he said. “They really pushed it.”
The Ackleys said they’re just glad the park is there for the kids.

Unfortunately, the young person whose spirit inspired the park is no longer here, they noted, but they’re happy they had the chance to be his parents
“I didn’t want to miss a moment of this child’s upbringing,” his mother said.
“Even now when I get down some days, I just think about some of the fun things that we did,” his father added, recalling trips to Yankee stadium, swim meets and other highlights.

“The only thing I can say is spend as much time as possible with your child,” Allen said.

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