Sk8 Church in Steamboat rolls into future, never losing sight of its mission |

Sk8 Church in Steamboat rolls into future, never losing sight of its mission

Sarah and Nate Bartels took over the day-to-day operations of Sk8 Church in Steamboat Springs. Nate Bartels was named executive director of the nonprofit March 1, replacing founder Buck Chavarria in that role.
John F. Russell
How you can get involved? Visit for more information about Sk8 Church. Through the month of December, any donations made to the nonprofit organization will be matched by up to $20,000. To donate, For additional information, call 970-879-2222 or email

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Buck and Tara Chavarria started the Christ for Life Sk8 Church in Steamboat Springs more than a decade ago, they wanted it to be bigger than them, and they wanted it to continue even if they were not there.

“Buck and Tara always said they didn’t want the Sk8 Church to end with them,” said Sarah (Yokubonis) Bartels, operations manager for the church. “We want this new chapter to bring a new passion, and a new excitement to really see Sk8 Church continue in the vision that Buck and Tara started.”

Sarah, and her husband, Nathan Bartels, took over day-to-day operations of the local nonprofit after the Chavarrias moved to Southern California in July. Buck Chavarria continues to act as the Sk8 Church’s executive director, making the trip from Oceanside, California, to Steamboat once a month to help with the transition to new leadership. He is still involved in ministry and still uses skateboarding as a way to connect to those in need in his new home, while keeping an eye on what’s happening in Colorado.

“I could not have picked a better couple to take over the front lines of Sk8 Church for sure,” Chavarria said. “I so want to see this thing last. It is such an asset to the Steamboat Springs community and the families and the kids that live there —  I want that place to have success that lasts beyond us.”

Sarah grew up in the Steamboat Springs community and has first-hand knowledge of many of the issues the children growing up here face.

“I had known Buck and Tara growing up in Steamboat Springs, but they actually started the Sk8 church right after I moved away,” Sarah Bartels said. “Because I grew up here, I was very familiar with the issues most youth and young adults face. Going to the high school, I was  heavily involved in many of those issues.”

But Bartels was able to turn her life around 10 years ago and has wanted to come back to Steamboat and be a part of what the Sk8 Church offers.

Nathan, her husband, grew up in Minnesota and moved to Kansas City, Missouri, when he was 18. He started skateboarding when he was 12 years old and leaned on his love for the sport as he faced challenges as a young man.

But skateboarding provided him a path to better life choices. He started traveling with a group that put on skateboarding demonstrations and held public events. The group went into public schools to pass on the virtues of a healthy, sober lifestyle.

“I have traveled the world doing skate demos, and skateboarding with teams of skateboarders,” he said. “We always focused on positive messages. We would do school assemblies and do  public shows. I did that for over 10 years, so moving here to help out at the Sk8 Church was a natural move.”

As the skate pastor, he used that positive approach to help many children deal with some pretty serious issues. He fears that some young people might be falling through the cracks, and he’s hoping Sk8 Church will always be there to catch them.

“We have traveled around the world, and we have been to a lot of different places, but I’ve never seen any place where kids or addicts or whoever will walk through the door saying. ‘I need help, I need a relationship, I need to connect and I need love,’ and they will get it here,” Sarah said. “They are not going to be preached to, they are not going to be judged and they are not going to be looked down upon no matter where they are at. They are going to be offered some food, some coffee and somebody to talk to and they are going to be loved no matter where they are at in life.

“For me, that is one of the most unique and special things about Sk8 Church, and I love that I get to be a part of that,” Sarah added.

Although Sk8 Church is often the first place that young people come to for the support, the organization does not do it alone. The Bartels said the church works with the schools, other community organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Music with Vision and many local churches to make the program successful.

“I think probably the greatest challenge is getting back into the community in a real way,” Bartels said. “Showing them that we are here to serve, to love these kids and to build relationships. Whether that’s with the kids or the community, it always takes time. We have seen so much support already, but we just want to continue to let people know that we are here, and we are not going anywhere. We are going to love this city the best that we can and really try to serve everybody the best that we can.”

Sk8 Church, which is located in Riverside Plaza in west Steamboat, offers after-school programs for local youth Monday through Friday, High School Sk8 Night on Thursdays and Middle School Sk8 Night on Mondays, as well as a host of other programs including recovery support groups and the Music with Vision program.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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