Defying disability: Gravity car races let kids roll

Families came out to the Snoqualmie Parkway Saturday morning, Sept. 19, to be a part of the third annual Challenge Series Race sponsored by Life Enrichment Options and the Snoqualmie Valley Rotary Club. The challenge race is an event giving children with disabilities a chance to be a co-driver as part of soapbox derby.

Amber Thompson and Addison Fischer (left) race Danny Vukovich and Lucy Weed on Snoqualmie Parkway Saturday

Amber Thompson and Addison Fischer (left) race Danny Vukovich and Lucy Weed on Snoqualmie Parkway Saturday

Families came out to the Snoqualmie Parkway Saturday morning, Sept. 19, to be a part of the third annual Challenge Series Race sponsored by Life Enrichment Options and the Snoqualmie Valley Rotary Club. The challenge race is an event giving children with disabilities a chance to be a co-driver as part of soapbox derby.

The challenge race started about 17 years ago in Issaquah with Life Enrichment Options, a non-profit organization.

This is the race series’ third year in Snoqualmie.

Nancy Whitaker, former president of the Snoqualmie Rotary club, explained how this event came together.

“One of the founders’ families had a kid that was doing soapbox derby but they also had a child with a disability who couldn’t do that.” Whitaker said.

“Leo Finnegan, who worked at Puget Sound Energy, and the engineers that were his buddies there designed a car for two kids to ride,” she continued.

“It started as a partnership with the Rotary club in Issaquah many years ago so that Tim Finnegan and his buddies could race just like their brothers and sisters were doing.

“It’s grown from there. Now we have the set of cars that those guys gave to us and take them to about five places around the state.”

Whitaker said the challenge race goes to Issaquah, Snoqualmie, Sammamish, and all the way out to cities like Spokane and the Tri-Cities.

The Snoqualmie Police Department lent a hand by providing location support for the event.

“The police department provides the road closure and some of the equipment and they’ve been wonderful,” Whitaker said. “Chief (Steve) McCulley and (Snoqualmie Public Works Director) Dan Marcinko are both in the Rotary club so they are really invested in it.”

Watching the kids enjoy themselves is the biggest reward of the whole event for Whitaker.

“The smiles on the kids when they are rolling down the hill, they just love it. It’s really a unique opportunity for children with disabilities to be doing something on their own without mom and dad having to help and to be with typical kids,” Whitaker said.

“They have a good time together for the day and they see each other at school and so there’s a connection made there.”

Nancy Meeks, Special Services director for the school district, waves the checkered flag to start the race down Snoqualmie Parkway.

Connor Cunningham and Skylar Bergeron pull ahead of their competition at the beginning of the race.

Racers feeling the excitement moments before the start of the race in the i9 sports car.


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