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Where Self-Confidence Soars: C.J. Skateboard Park in Toronto

Written by in Profiles

Providing Special Needs Kids Hope, Love — and Thrills!

Jay Mandarino’s memories of growing up can be painful; he suffered from difficulty with reading and school performance and was often told he lacked both intelligence and ability to achieve much in his life. His story is the story of millions of young children whose potential is wasted to undiagnosed cognitive disorders.


“I lacked self confidence. In school, I felt I was stupid and I would often come home crying,” says Jay. His parents were beside themselves. At 14 years old he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and ADHD, so his parents enrolled him at the Gow School in South Wales, New York where their son could get the mentoring and support needed. Surrounded by nurturing and support, young Jay picked up skateboarding. “Skateboarding is an individual sport so it allowed me to measure my success on my terms. I practiced 8 to 9 hours a day.”

laurel broten mpp medal  presentation at open house 2012 shot

Above, Jay Mandarino (C) receives the Queen’s Jubilee Medal from Canadian MPP Laurel Broten (R). Jay’s wife Lorena Urrutia stands left.

When he was 15, Jay jumped over a Ferrari in front of 500 plus spectators. The stunt was shown on the local news. “That jump made me sort of famous among the skateboarding community here.” But more importantly, it made him realize, “I could do anything.” With newfound self esteem and confidence, Jay blossomed. In 1981, he founded C.J Graphics printing and lithography in Toronto, one of the largest and most respected graphic companies in North America.  Today the C.J Graphic group of companies employs more than 140 people, across 16 companies with gross revenues of $26M+.

sting jay new york

Jay often serves as an auction caller for charity events. Seen here with Sting (R) at a charity event in NYC.


“We help kids grow strong, have fun and soar to new heights.”

Jay’s measure of success has never been financial. He never forgot the pain of his childhood so he dedicated his life to helping kids who suffered from the same kinds of disabilities he once faced. His crowning achievement is Toronto’s C.J. Skateboard Park and School (a not-for-profit corporation and Member of The C.J. Group of Companies), a not-for-profit ,28,000 square foot recreational facility that attracts children from across the U.S. and Canada. Jay paid for much of the $2M park construction costs from his own pocket.

Open seven days a week, skate park has a staff of 12 full time employees and more than 30 volunteers who provide an environment that allows children and adolescents to discover their own innate, untapped abilities and potential. Children and their families with special needs come from all over to enjoy a day of the park’s thrills, spills, laughter and self discovery.

“The staff and volunteers deserve all the credit,” he says. “They work with thousands of kids every year, giving them the personal attention they need and deserve. The difference this park can make to the lives of these kids and their families is immeasurable. I am blessed to be a part of it.”


Neenah Paper donated ENVIRONMENT® Desert Storm for the park’s “Ramp Letterhead.”

Neenah Paper pitched in this year with a paper donation for  skateboard park’s letterhead and other print needs. Says Jay, “We chose this sheet because it looks like the 100% recycled material we used to build our ramps. The print provides a nice visual link to our brand promise: we help kids grow strong, have fun and soar to new heights.”

On April 13th, Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer (OPACC) invited families of children affected by childhood cancer to spend a morning of free family fun at C.J. Skateboard Park and School. The event featured activities for kids of all ages and abilities and included skateboarding, video games, arts and crafts and an awe-inspiring display of spectacular skateboard moves.
Hey!?! What’s the Big Idea?!! 
What:  C.J. Skateboard Park and School
Where: 60 Horner Avenue in Toronto OntarioPhone: 416-259-6888
Contact: Jay Mandarino (President & Founder)
C.J. GRAPHICS INC. (Printers & Lithographers)
134 Park Lawn Road
Toronto, Ontario M8Y 3H9
Tel: 416-588-0808 ext. 232


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