SAN FRANCISCO – This week's Jefferson Award winner has been dubbed the "Godfather of Roller Skating" in San Francisco, spending more than four decades promoting the sport.
In Golden Gate Park, David Miles Jr. is often found doing what he loves most.
"Makes me feel great, makes me feel alive," Miles said of roller skating.
Miles, also known by the nickname "Dee," said his passion for roller skating ignited decades ago when he got off the bus from Kansas City and discovered people skating at San Francisco's iconic park.
"The energy here, just being here, it's fantastic. I've always wanted to keep that alive," Miles said.
So he's spun into action, dedicating his life to promoting the sport for the last 45 years.
Miles runs the Church of 8 Wheels, an abandoned church in the Lower Haight that's now a rink, where he's taught skating for 10 years.
He's one of a few African Americans in the country who owns a roller-skating rink; his business pays for the community work he provides for free:
Miles started the volunteer skate patrol in 1979 to monitor and help skaters in Golden Gate Park. He's fought against a proposed ban on roller skating in the park. And he succeeded in getting a section of 6th Avenue near Fulton closed to car traffic for skating.
His weekly events at the park include Friday Night skates that started during COVID. The gatherings draw neighbors together, and even brought Mayor London Breed to skate.
"I did not know a soul when I first came, but with roller skating, you have an entire family," Miles reflected. "I think that's what people want in San Francisco. People want that in the world."
Longtime skater Chris Duderstadt donated the park benches at the skating space. He's inspired by Miles' commitment.
"He's just a giving soul. He's the heart and soul of skating, truthfully," Duderstadt said.
Outside Golden Gate Park, Miles has partnered with the city to bring San FranDISCO roller skating days at Civic Center.
In addition, his skate-a-thons have raised money for causes like muscular dystrophy and world hunger.
And for years, he's set up pop-up rinks for events as far away as Burning Man.
At age 67, Miles continues to spread what he calls his "ROLLigion on wheels."
"I'm probably the luckiest person that's never won the lottery because San Francisco has embraced me. It's hugged me, and it's let me be able to share with others," he smiled.
For his decades-long advocacy of roller skating that's brought the community together, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to David "Dee" Miles, Jr.
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