FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown


Thank You Thursday To Begin September 29

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It has been nearly seven years since difficulties within the Soap Box Derby became known to the public. Despite more than seven decades of rich heritage and the well-intentioned efforts of hundreds of volunteers, the program was challenged by an economy in recession and a changing environment for youth activities. Since then, it has been a very busy seven years as we stabilized our financial position, realigned staff responsibilities and expenditures to focus on functions that grow the program or improve customer service. The overall governance of the organization has been enhanced. We evaluated how best to serve our customers, the organizers of races and the families whose children race. As a result, we have improved the quality and availability of car kits and components and simplified the rules governing participation. Improving and increasing Derby racing is an ongoing priority.

Race Week activities in Akron for champions and their families were enhanced by adding new events and traditions. Derby Downs has been opened to more than 70 outside events so that Akron area residents can experience the “Thrill of the Hill.”

The education program, which places planning and construction of Soap Box Derby participation into curriculum for schools, after school programs and youth groups has grown and now includes a STEM based Soap Box Derby mini car program, a Gravity Racing Challenge STEM Team Competition, STEM Summer camp and the Soap Box Derby STEM Curriculum. This program is a major growth opportunity for the Derby.

The support and enthusiasm for Derby racing is evident throughout the country. It is reflected in the many volunteers who support local, rally and GRC races and who spend more than a week in Akron running the World Championship race. It is reflected in those who serve on the Racing Commission, as Regional Directors, on the Rally Commission and the Board of Directors. All of these groups are vital to the Derby.

It has taken a community to implement improvements and change. The focus must remain on blending a rich heritage with a zeal for continuous improvement. Doing so will ensure Derby values are imparted and a valuable international asset will thrive. While we continue to reinvent our programs, what has been achieved could not have been possible without the support of many civic and community leaders, corporations, volunteers, foundations and individuals.

On Thursday, September 29, the Derby will begin a weekly “Thank You Thursday” feature to offer a heartfelt “Thank You” to a corporation, civic or community leader, volunteer, foundation or an individual who has helped us continue our mission of building knowledge and character, and creating meaningful experiences through collaboration and fair and honest competition.