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As a fitness instructor and massage therapist, LaTasha Ruby loves being around other people. 

“I like people. I love the human connection,” said Ruby, 36. “I love human touch. Unfortunately, I can’t teach pole dancing and yoga right now.”

Stuck at home, the Vallejo resident tried to keep herself busy, coming up with new activities for the family to do. Eventually, she turned to an old favorite from her childhood — roller skating.

But after four months of shelter in place, the mother of six also “needed time away from my family,” so she decided to create a Facebook group called WeSkate and post an invitation to the community for a Fourth of July skate session along the Vallejo waterfront. To her astonishment, more than 30 people showed up.

“People are getting depressed,” said Ruby, who grew up skating at roller rinks in Vacaville and San Rafael. “I have a friend who’s been quarantining alone for five months. She joined the skate group, and she’s so happy. Skating helps because you can do it with other people. You can skate with your kids. If you don’t have a family, you can skate with us.”

WeSkate not only promotes a fun way to socialize and exercise, but also showcases Vallejo’s waterfront.

Since then, the Facebook group has boomed to nearly 300 members, with five meetups so far. Each session lasts about two hours — Ruby estimates she burns about 600 calories per hour while roller skating — and brings out around 15-30 people of all ages and skill levels. 

And it’s not just Vallejoans coming to these events, with people from as far as Oakland joining as well.

Although unexpected, Ruby embraces the opportunity to show visitors a different side of her home. “The goal was to get people from Vallejo to skate. Now it’s to get people from other communities to meet in Vallejo,” she said. “Let’s get people to see this town, to see these businesses, to meet at the waterfront and get them active.”

And she’s not stopping there. She hopes to expand the group to other cities — she’s currently planning a meetup at Oakland’s Lake Merritt in Oakland — and to create themed skate sessions such as date nights and costume parties. She is also organizing a petition to bring a skate rink to Vallejo as well as donation efforts to supply roller skates to kids, including a GoFundMe campaign. WeSkate has also inspired many community members to donate gear to the group, including a retired veteran.

“He rode his motor scooter [to a meetup],” said Ruby. “He couldn’t skate with us, of course, but he donated some helmets and skates.”

While the roller skaters experience their fair share of spills, tumbles and falls, Ruby encourages everyone to get back up and keep going.

Ruby started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to purchase skates and gear for children in underserved communities.

“I fell a couple of times [during the last meetup], and that’s okay,” she said with a laugh. “I just want people to live life, have fun and stay young.”

Visit group’s Facebook page to get the latest updates on WeSkate meetups, and support the “WeSkate for Kids” GoFundMe donation drive.