Organizers and attendees at the memorial look on as people use the skate park. Heather Norman photo

Quesnel skateboard community rallies for fallen friend

Large memorial for Ryley Merritt attended by well over 100 peers

It can be very difficult to process when a valued young member of a community passes away suddenly.

The friends of Ryley Merritt, an avid bike rider and skateboarder who recently lost his life in a car accident, decided the best way to deal with their grief would be to organize a gathering at his second home, the skateboard park in West Quesnel.

What was planned as a chance for a few friends to get together and reminisce about tricks and falls and laughs this past Saturday (Oct. 20) turned into a celebration of life and community that few expected.

Well over a hundred people showed up to skate and bike. Pizza and drinks were provided. Music blasted.

Spirits were high.

Taylor Norris and Colton Shepherd shared some excellent experiences with Ryley at the park.

“It was like his second home,” Shepherd says. “A lot of us met him here and we got to be super good friends. He pushed me to learn new tricks and we always had a good time here.

“Taylor and I decided to invite all our friends and we thought we’d get a card for everyone to sign and give it to his parents.

“I thought there might be some people I’d miss, so I made a public Facebook event, and it kept getting shared.”

Shepherd says it was passed around over 160 times, a sign of how tight-knit the community is.

“The biggest thing is this is a community that’s often looked down upon and taken for granted,” says Crystal Brekke, another local skateboarder’s mom who helped Ryley’s friends with the organization of the event.

“They have this bad name and bad rep as lost kids, but watching this and seeing this proves these kids are amazing. They’re like a family. They encourage each other and push each other and they persevere through things.

“If you ever spend time here and watch them, they’ll spend so much time just to master a single trick. They’ll fall 20 times but continue to get up and the other kids watching them will push them, saying, ‘You’ve got this! You’ve got this!’”

In addition to the snacks and music, a permanent reminder of the impact Ryley had was unveiled.

Local artists Lee-Anne Chisholm and Maureen Wheeler painted a mural for Ryley before the memorial kicked off.

They began spray painting early on Saturday morning and, thanks to some help, they were able to finish just before the event kicked off.

“They had a reveal of the mural at about 1:30 p.m., so we were right on time,” says Chisholm. “We had a lot of people holding stencils, which was great. Because in a short amount of time we made some stencils and spray painted it all, and so there were a lot of hands involved and it was such a team effort. It was so great.”

While the tragedy of a life cut short in its prime will take a lot of time to deal with, the young community will continue to encourage each other to get back up.

“Honestly, there’s no words to explain how I feel besides thankful,” says Norris. “When we originally made this event, we just wanted some friends to come together to have fun but thanks to this community it turned out to be way more.

“Ryley would be happy.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Dozens of people signed a poster featuring a photo of Ryley at the memorial. Heather Norman photo

The Ryley Merritt memorial mural at the skate park in West Quesnel was painted by Lee-Anne Chisholm and Maureen Wheeler, with the help of some of Ryley’s friends. Heather Norman photo

Dozens of people gather around and use the skate park during the memorial for Ryley Merritt, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Heather Norman photo

Dozens of people gather around and use the skate park during the memorial for Ryley Merritt, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Heather Norman photo

Just Posted

Mighty Pucks beat Leftovers in Quesnel high school floor hockey overtime thriller

The Benchwarmers and Nordiques also pick up wins in Week 3

Quesnel Bikers meet the friendliest Good Neighbours in Vietnam

Chris and Heather Hartridge have spent five weeks touring the country and met many wonderful people

Bidding is open for ArtsWells Mini Murals

Contributing artists include Lindsay Kay, Connor Kenney, Dan Bern and Carly Nabess

Forestry Ink: Forestry practices and mine reclamation in B.C.

Columnist Jim Hilton writes about the possibilities for using biochar to reclaim mine-affected land

Workshop will help move Quesnel Timber Supply Area community forest forward

The City of Quesnel will facilitate a workshop in April with all the key players

WATCH NOW: Going back in time for Family Day at Barkerville

Family Day Weekend Celebrations featured town tours, presentations, demonstrations and exhibits

‘A long way to go’: UNBC hosts Moose Hide Campaign gathering on Feb. 24

The event is a part of a movement to stand up against violence inflicted on women and children

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Most Read