JOPLIN, Mo. — Every Tuesday evening at Joplin Skatepark, an event takes place called “Bike Night.”

From 5 to 7 p.m., riders come from near and far to join in on the fun of biking, skateboarding, scootering and more.

“People from Arkansas come, people from Springfield come. We’ll fill this place up with like 60 people,” said Danny Simpson of Freewheel Ministries.

The events, hosted by Simpson, aim to bring a sense of togetherness to riders of all kinds and all ages.

“The community” that comes with the gatherings is why Simpson was called to start Bike Night three years ago.

“I have a longing for community in my heart. I love encouraging people and I love to be encouraged by people… The Lord told me to do it,” said Simpson.

“When I first came out, I was thinking ‘they’re going to make fun of you, they don’t want you here,’ and I was thinking all these negative things. But that wasn’t the case at all. They have welcomed me with open arms. They embraced what we do. Now the kids look forward to it,” he said.

Simpson says that it can be kind of intimidating to come to the skatepark, but that the encouraging nature of the group is welcoming to all attendees.

“I’ll try a trick for like two hours and then when I get it, the whole skatepark goes crazy. It is so neat,” he said. “It’s a good, positive vibe where the little kids can come and not be intimidated. They know that they’re good people.”

Simpson says that Freewheel Ministries is all about “serving the community.” With help from others, he provides “about six pizzas and two coolers full of drinks” for attendees every week at the events.

Through serving one another, Simpson hopes that the congregation will have a generational impact.

“Half the time we’re just talking to each other. How’s our life going, what’s your wins today, what’s your losses?” he said.

Members of the group hope to grow their community in order to have a say in more executive matters regarding the park.

Currently, Joplin Skatepark has no official organization representing it and the riding community.

“We don’t have any oversight committees… We don’t have any structures in place yet,” said Simpson.

Bike Nights are something that can help begin to change that. Attendee and TLC Cycles owner Paris Skaggs has plans for the future of Joplin Skatepark and hopes that the riding community will soon have a voice and be heard.