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Skate park dream comes true for man with rare skin disease

By Ed Yeates | Posted - Aug. 3, 2011 at 10:10 p.m.

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MIDVALE — We scrub, rub, scratch, scrape and pull our skin all the time, but when Matt Farnworth does, his skin comes off — almost as fragile as butterfly wings.

That's why no one would expect this young 25-year-old skater, born with a skin condition called epidermolysis bullosa, to take up any kind of extreme sport. But as a teenager, Farnworth was determined not to let EB dictate what he wanted to do in life.

He now competes nationally and locally on inline skates. But he and his friend Zach Nelson always had another dream. The two wanted to build a large indoor skate park open to bladers, skateboarders, scooters and bikers.

Welcome to a dream come true. Despite a sour economy, Farnworth and Nelson have now opened just such a park at 621 W. 7300 South. The two business partners, along with a coalition of friends, have designed and built custom-made ramps, bars and riding planes that give skaters a broad range of competition. There was a professional Rollerblade contest there two weeks ago, and the Gatorade Free Flow Tour will gather this weekend.

What is... epidermolysis bullosa?
Epidermolysis bullosa is a group of skin conditions whose hallmark is blistering in response to minor injury, heat, or friction from rubbing or scratching. There are three main types of epidermolysis bullosa, with numerous subtypes. Most are inherited. Most types initially affect infants and young children, although some people with mild forms don't develop signs and symptoms until adolescence or early adulthood. There's no cure; treatment depends on the severity, but often is aimed at preventing pain, infection and other complications. -Mayo Clinic

"All the amateurs now in Utah can stay inside Utah and have the opportunity to actually go pro," Farnworth said.

In an adjoining shop, users can buy jerseys, helmets, frames, wheels, parts and soon — biker products. The park is big "as is," but the dream goes on.

"We eventually want to create a huge park that has enough seating for everyone to sit around comfortably without getting in the way of riders," Nelson said.

Farnworth and Nelson are good skaters themselves, but when Farnworth falls, even lightly, his skin is severely punished. It often peels away leaving deep scars that resemble injuries more from a street fight than from skating.

Still, he says, "You have to go with the things in life you really love. Even if you get hurt a little along the way, even if you fail a little bit along the way, ultimately if you're sticking with it and you're progressing. Those are the things that bring meaning and they actually make my life good."

So despite his butterfly-like skin, doing his own thing is what Farnworth is all about — soaring in more ways than aerial twists and turns.

The business owners' philosophy is embodied in the name of this park. It's called "We Are One," and it says it all — a place where where everybody can participate and where the friends who supported the project from the beginning and helped put it all together.

"We are all one," Farnworth said. "It doesn't matter what you look like or what you like to do, we're all part of the same picture — just doing our own thing. We wanted to make this a place where no one is excluded."




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