But most of the drivers were disabled.
Over 100 cars raced at Civitan International Race Way on December 18. The first Race Day at the Civitan Foundation, a non-profit that offers services to members of the special-needs population, was a success; ushering in a new tradition that the organization hopes lingers for a while.
The roaring of the crowd that echoed through the Paradise valley air was minimal compared to the loud sense of purpose that was reverberating within the participants of that day.
“The goal was to have fun,” said Merilee Adams…, art teacher and creator of the event. “We wanted to enhance motor skills with the making of the cars and create empowerment with the cars racing down the track.”
Since the start of November, members looked forward to that chilly day in mid-December, when they would be able to show off their cars and their abilities. They prepared for it: painting, screwing wheels on and getting together the dynamics.
Parents, community members and staff were on hand to watch the wooden cars being let go from the prideful hands of their manufacturer and rolling down a ramp outside the rear of Civitan Village. Among the festive attendees included cars with spirited and creative logos. Arizona Cardinal Cars, an Oscar Mayer car and a car that looked like a trumpet is just a sprinkling of all the colorful ingenuity that was on display. During a day that symbolized the message to the members that the unleashing of a smile or confidence is easy to achieve, lessons in buoyancy were learned and applied.
Races were done in rounds and members received prizes, such as a gift card to Target. Lynn C won. Lynn, who recently had his art displayed at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts, credits the mechanics of his car for the victory.
“Guess who won?” he asked satirically. “I took a lot of time to design it. I made sure the dynamics were great.”
Focusing on the mechanics proved to be pertinent, as a few cars were unable to reach the end of the ramp. TO the humor of the crowd, many cars fell off the side of the track or saw their wheels fall off. But the positive energy and enthusiasm did not drop for the duration of the day.
Even though Lynn C won, every participant felt as if they were victorious. For Roxie, the accomplishment of her and her peers building something and showing it off to the community loomed much larger than winning a race would have.
“Winning and losing is just a part of life,” she said. “It’s great to show people that having a disability doesn’t mean you aren’t smart or creative.”
Staff joined in the fun, with races of their own. The race was part of a day filled with food, music and a break from the norm. Instead of the usual classes, the Village, (the headquarters of Civitan,) was buzzing with optimism and a giant holiday spirit, which was fulfilled by the appearance of Santa.
Civitan, which serves over 750 families and caregivers around Arizona, plans to continue the race day for years to come. The organization hopes to establish a permanent neighborhood attraction and tradition with the race.
“We want to get sponsors for next year,” said Adams..”We want to go for what worked and fix what didn’t.”
To the members of Civitan, many of whom never would have dreamed that they would be able to design and race their own car, the start of the Race Day tradition initiated a new era of confidence and pride that now illuminates them. A small wooden car featured a big structure of pride and happiness that was as firm as steel.