Annual race is a pleasure, challenge

July 16, 2013

By Erin Hoffman

As a child, Tim Finnegan watched as his siblings raced soapbox derby cars every year.

Due to a developmental disability, he was never able to participate, until his father Leo Finnegan built a doublewide car that could fit two kids. With his siblings at the wheel, Tim could finally participate in the activity he watched for so long.

On July 20, the Rotary Club of Issaquah and Life Enrichment Options will put on their 16th annual Challenge Series Race, where people with disabilities can race in their own soapbox derby cars alongside their peers.

“It was a real thrill when we were able to have Tim participate,” Rose Finnegan, Tim’s mother, Leo’s wife and past president of LEO, recalled. “He was always on the sidelines, and winning a trophy was really exciting for him.”

For each race, able-bodied volunteers, who sit behind the wheel, pair up with participants with disabilities, who sit in the passenger seat. Each participant gets to race three times, and everyone gets free lunch and a trophy at the end of the day. There is no age limit, although participants must be 5-foot-2 or shorter and 130 pounds or lighter to fit in a car.

On race day, check-in begins at 8 a.m. for three sessions, beginning at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Pre-registration is required, and the 10:30 session is already full. Each race begins on Second Avenue in front of the Issaquah Community Center.

According to Rose Finnegan, the effects of the race on the community extend beyond each participant’s enjoyment.

“People have become more aware of kids with disabilities through this race,” she said.

According to Jacalyn Holsted, with the Rotary Club of Issaquah, the able-bodied volunteers driving the cars often bond with the participants.

“They get to see that they’re just kids,” Holsted said. “They’re enjoying the same experience.”

Races are also held in Richland, Spokane, Sammamish, Oak Harbor and Snoqualmie.



If you go

Challenge Series Race

  • 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Second Avenue in front of the Issaquah Community Center
  • Free for all participants and spectators
  • Call 392-5692 to register.


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