Rock Rotary Soap Box Derby

Rock Rotary Soap Box Derby

Rock Rotary Soap Box Derby

Fourteen years ago, the Rotary Club of Rockingham County was searching for a service project that inspired member participation and could make a lasting impact on the community. Dick Myers, president of the club at the time, said he wanted to find a community service project focused on children within the community of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
It was a dinner at a Waynesboro Restaurant that sparked the idea for a Soap Box Derby, said current president Charles Hendricks.
“Waynesboro had a successful derby - the Blue Ridge Classic - that was proven to show kids the importance of sportsmanship, family, honesty, innovation, critical thinking, team building, science, math and engineering.”
Several Rockingham Club Rotarians thought it just might be the right fit for the Rockingham Club to bring a derby to Harrisonburg. Matt Findley took on the challenge to research what it would take to launch a Harrisonburg Soap Box Derby.
The club received a grant for the Harrisonburg Rockingham Boys and Girls Club to purchase 14 derby cars. “The project was started and the club found a passion for serving area youth,” said Matt, who is now the derby director.
The Harrisonburg Soap Box Derby has grown over the last 12 years into a major event. The Rockingham County School district has embraced the program for its STEM program. Now every third grader in the county is working, learning and/or racing cars in the derby.
“The value of the program is that all kids are on a level playing field no matter their athletic ability,” said Matt. “They get to learn with their hands. It shows them that practice and challenging work pays off.”
Each year a post race Gabe Chester Sportsmanship award is voted on by all the participants and given to the racer showing the best sportsmanship during the event.
 The club hopes to expand the Soap Box Derby to include a Superkids race this coming year, said Charles. “Super kids is a Soap Box Derby race for physically and mentally challenged children. This race allows for two kids to be in one car so everyone can be included."