Sitting on the couch of Ray Newlin’s charming Akron home, surrounded by pictures of his wife and kids and his beloved Eagles paraphernalia, it’s hard to associate the friendly family man with the angry, troubled past he reveals during his interview. Ray’s mother was a single mom with five children before he was born. His father was a 55-year-old World War II veteran. The pair met, married, and had Ray soon after. “He was an old head, to have a kid,” Ray laughs.
Tragedy struck when Ray’s mother got sick with breast cancer when he was only six years old. “It was pretty rapid,” he says. “We went to Florida to visit my sister, who had just had a baby. That was July 1983. She found a lump in her breast, we flew back to Pennsylvania, and she passed away that September. It was a three-month span of her being sick, and I was only six going on seven. My father was 63 years old at that point, and that set the stage for… well, I just got real angry—a real ‘chip on my shoulder’ kind of thing—angry at the world,” he remembers.
Ray’s half siblings were all significantly older and out of the house, so Ray lived with just his father, who turned to alcohol to cope with his problems. “He liked to drink a lot, but he was functioning. He went to work every day. He worked at the same factory for 32 years, and when he retired, they retired the machine. That’s the kind of guy he was,” Ray says.
Ray’s sadness and anger led to his own problems with substance abuse. “It started out with a group of like-minded kids with similar home situations,” he explains. “We started partying together, and that’s where it started for me. It was the early to mid-90s—it was a good time to be alive. It was a lot of fun back then, in the beginning, but it took off for me in a negative way, eventually.”
His alcohol and drug use led to addiction—“I was in and out of trouble for many years; I couldn’t get it together. The court system, all that stuff,” Ray admits. He managed to face his demons and recover with the help and support of others.
However, two of his friends weren’t so lucky. “They both died from the direct results of substance abuse,” Ray shakes his head. “So these two men died within about two months of each other… and I set out to create something, I guess very selfishly, like, ‘I’m gonna make something so great that my friends wouldn’t have died.’” As a result, Ray founded Cornerstone for Recovery, a network of homes for people transitioning out of inpatient facilities, rehabs, and prisons. “We offer them safe and sober living so that they can transition back into society, get support, get jobs, and get back on their feet, and then walk out the door and never have to look back,” he says.
Cornerstone currently has four male residences in Lancaster City and one female residence in Columbia, with the hopes of expanding and opening more houses. “The scales are always going to be tipped on the side of people that are in need,” Ray acknowledges. “The addict and the alcoholic, the substance abuser, will never go away. So we have to provide that service, and we’re going to continue to do so.”
In addition to Cornerstone, Ray also co-founded a scholarship to honor one of his two friends who passed away, skateboard enthusiast Anthony Craighead. “Craighead, as we called him—when we were younger, he would always just give things away to people. He always had new products, so when he was done with them, he would be pretty quick to kick it down and hand it to the next guy and to keep everybody riding. We wanted to honor that and do something nice, and try to make something positive out of his passing,” Ray explains. The Anthony Craighead Skateboard Scholarship gives away free skateboards to children in Lancaster County who might not otherwise be able to afford them. The fund takes donations of skateboards and money through its Facebook page and utilizes profits from t-shirt sales to distribute the boards to children in need, including students at Lancaster City’s Price Elementary School.
From helping young skaters get a start to assisting addicts, Ray does all of his charitable work while also maintaining a full-time job at Paul Davis Restoration Company. When asked how he manages his time, he laughs, “I’m blessed with a good wife and good support.” Now, Ray hopes to be the support for others that once helped him overcome his past: “Anybody that’s ever shown me patience, kindness, and forgiveness along the way… Thank you.”
Follow the foundation on Facebook @anthonycraigheadskateboards.