2017 Challenge Races!
The Challenge Series Races And Local Rotary Clubs
It All Starts With Fun
The parents, who founded LEO, realized that their children needed an activity that they could enjoy, that put them in contact with typically developing youth and that was fun. An event that is totally planned for their children and is free of charge attracts many families raising children with developmental or physical disabilities as the opportunities are so rare.
History of the Challenge Series Races
There are now five Rotary clubs in Issaquah, Sammamish, Snoqualmie, Oak Harbor and Spokane East hosting an annual Challenge Race. The typical race day starts early, with LEO staff arriving by 7:00 a.m. towing a specially designed trailer holding eight brightly painted racing cars. One car looks like a police vehicle, another like a fire engine complete with red revolving light, while others are decorated by local businesses that help sponsor the races.
The LEO staff and the Rotary members set up the starting ramps and lay out the gently sloping downhill course. Hay bales are placed near curbs and the finish line is set. Local businesses have their ads placed along the course, just like the big-time auto races.
Drivers do a few test races, checking the steering and braking. Soon the local high school teams begin to show up. Cheerleaders line the course and wrestling or football team members volunteer to help at the finish lines. Often bands come to add music to the festivities.
As the children with developmental or physical disabilities (Co-Drivers) arrive, they are welcomed with bright shirts notifying everyone that they are a racer, and here to compete. Drivers are given a shirt with another color, so it is easy to make certain the youth behind the wheel has been trained in all aspects of steering and safety.
The race cars are positioned on the starting ramp, with Rotarians and community volunteers helping the children wearing the bright shirts into the cars and securing them. The race starters wave the checkered flag to start the races.
The race starters are generally well known people in the community. Members of the state senate and house, the mayor and council members are all honorary race starters.
Soon they are competing as two cars head down the course side-by-side racing each other to the finish line. Once they pass the waving green flag at the finish line, the volunteer students at the bottom congratulate the racers and get the cars turned around so they can be pulled back up the hill; this ATV’s are normally provided by a local business.
Once cars, drivers and riders are returned to the top of the hill past cheering family and community members, another two cars begin their race. During the course of the day, each co-driver will race with different drivers and all get numerous races. Due to the ingenuity of those responsible for releasing the cars, everyone is able to come in first at least one time.
The Rotary club also works with local restaurants to cater a lunch for all the participants, parents, volunteers and families. Following lunch is the Awards Ceremony where each co-driver has their name announced while coming forward to receive a trophy and a certificate with their name and photo. These are treasured reminders of a day full of fun and friendships.
This is part of a note from a thankful mother of a young girl.
Dear Challenge Series Race Staff:
A thank you note is in order here. Our child had the best time all day. The trophy was a hit. She simply won’t let go of it. It goes to every room with her. Thank you for what you have done for the community of people with children who have disabilities and for their families.
The drivers and passengers are now fully mingling and sharing stories of their races, as the Rotary members and LEO staff pack everything back up into the trailer, clean the course and take the moment to acknowledge that this Challenge Series Race is one of the most meaningful things they do during the entire year.
Cooperation from the municipal leaders and staff to give permits, close streets and assign police support, allows their staff and elected officials to begin to see the families with children with developmental disabilities and to acknowledge how many of these families live in their community.
In each of these communities where the races are long-time annual events, there are now young adults who met their first children with developmental disabilities when they were 10-year old drivers. They have grown up remembering those races and friendships and have learned from an early age that although there are differences between them, there is no reason to treat a child with developmental disabilities differently or to ignore them at school.
At the end of the day, everyone leaves a winner.”
Please join us this 2017 race season.
The first race is May 20th on Snoqualmie Ridge.
For the first time, the Issaquah and Sammamish Rotary are combining their efforts to host a race on July 29th in Issaquah.
You are welcome to participate in both local races.
Please download the reservation form for either a co-driver or a volunteer driver and mail them to the LEO office at PO Box 117, Issaquah, WA 98027. You will then e contacted with the race information details.