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Soap Box Derby Continues To Impact Community Through Racing And Stem Education Programs


The International Soap Box Derby (ISBD) continued to build momentum during 2018 in its traditional racing and education programs, as well as special events at Derby Downs, according to the organization’s recently released annual report.

In 2018, more than 100 local communities in the United States, Canada, Germany and Japan staged 1,300 races in which more than 3,600 boys and girls raced their gravity-powered race cars built from kits provided by ISBD.  In addition, 20,000 students in more than 700 schools in the United States participated in ISBD’s STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in-school education program.

During the year, there also were 78 special events at Derby Downs, in which community members and visitors took more than 10,000 trips down the historic track.

“The Soap Box Derby continues building momentum and playing a vital role in young lives and in collaborating with community partners,” said Gregg Mervis, chairman of the ISBD board of directors.  “Racing activities at Derby Downs, as well as year-round production of car kits and parts have a $5-million annual impact on the Akron area.”

 “We are excited to have developed a new strategic plan and for providing meaningful experiences for the community. Our mission of impacting youth in leadership, education and racing continues to provide us a compass going forward,” said Mark Gerberich. ISBD’s president and chief executive officer.  “We thank all our volunteers and partners for their tremendous support over the past year.”

For decades, volunteers have been the foundation of the Soap Box Derby to ensure success in all of its race locations. There are more than 300 people that come to Akron to volunteer for the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship each July and a total of more than 3,300 volunteers who support all of the events yearly around the world. The top fund-raising event is The United Way Corporate Derby Challenge, presented by Fallsway Equipment Company. In 2018, the Derby hosted 38 teams from area companies and organizations who designed, built and competed in adult-sized cars in a fun race at Derby Downs. Through the annual Corporate Derby Challenge, the Derby organization has supported youth programs in the Akron area community.

The Derby’s education programs and events at the track have provided nearly $10,000 in support to youth organizations. The Derby hosted field trips for youth groups to come to the track, provided Soap Box Derby cars to schools and organizations to be able to participate in the Gravity Racing Challenge STEM Team Competition, presented by the University of Akron College of Engineering, and to provide the Mini Soap Box Derby scale model cars program to schools and youth organizations.

The Soap Box Derby annually awards the President’s Youth Volunteer Service Award to youth under the age of 21 who have made a positive impact on Soap Box Derby programs by volunteering and mentoring on the local or national level. In 2018, Nick Hubbell, Trevor Wiesner and Geordan Wells were the recipients of this award. Also, veteran volunteers Craig Flury and Carole Berry were inducted into the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame in recognition of their significant contributions to the program over the years.

The 82nd FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby will be on Saturday, July 20, at Derby Downs.

Copies of the 2018 annual report are available on the ISBD’s website: