News Article

Dasha’s Journey from Ukraine to Nebraska to Ohio to Compete in the All-American Soap Box Derby

AKRON, Ohio – Ukrainian-born Dasha Driscoll, 12, will represent Omaha as well as her home country in the 85th FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby on Saturday, July 22 at Derby Downs here.

Dasha won the novice Stock division at the Omaha Soap Box Derby in June in her sleek racer painted blue and yellow–the colors of Ukraine’s flag–as a tribute to her heritage. Her car is named “Wind of Ukraine,” which is lettered in Ukrainian on the side of her car along with a graphic of a child holding a dove of peace.

Dasha and her brother Michael, now 9, were adopted in 2020 by American Jon Driscoll and his Ukrainian wife Svetlana. They had met while Driscoll, a software engineer, worked in Ukraine. They were married in Ukraine and returned to the United States. Over the years, they supported programs for orphans and visited Ukraine frequently. In 2015, they began collecting coats for children in orphanages. Two years later, they established One Child Inc. (onechildinc.org) to formalize and grow their efforts. Today, they collect and ship thousands of coats and shoes annually to Ukraine for at-risk children and their families.

The Driscolls moved Dasha and Michael from their home village in the western part of Ukraine to Omaha shortly after they adopted them in March 2020. Neither child spoke any English. Because schools were closed due to the pandemic, the new parents were searching for programs to help the children learn English and become familiar with their new country. They discovered the Soap Box Derby and Dasha immediately embraced racing in the fall of 2020.

Dasha was determined to raise funds from sponsors to re-build her car for the 2022 racing season and began posting on social media and sending emails—promoting her car’s Ukrainian tribute. She had a goal of $500, and ended up collecting $2,000. When the war started in late February 2022, the mission of One Child Inc transitioned from collecting coats and shoes to add raising funds to help move refugees to safety. Dasha pledged her $2,000 Soap Box Derby sponsorship money to that cause. Her race car then became a symbol of those refugee efforts and to date, has raised more than $42,000 to help displaced Ukrainians reach safety.

According to Jon Driscoll, the Soap Box Derby has helped Dasha learn to meet new friends, improve her speaking of English, learn American customs and become a good student. She will be in sixth grade in the fall.

At the same time, she has not forgotten her roots or the Ukrainian people who are feeling the effects of the lingering war. Her “Wind of Ukraine” race car will display that message at Derby Downs during Soap Box Derby activities later this month.

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