Ka-Vroom brings back soap box derby

Maple Ridge secondary brings back old race and old times

Members of Ka-Vroom soap box derby club at Maple Ridge  secondary: (from left) Daniel Floyd

Members of Ka-Vroom soap box derby club at Maple Ridge secondary: (from left) Daniel Floyd

Ka-Vroom is a unique bunch of kids, organizing a nostalgic family event in Maple Ridge this spring.

It started as a classroom exercise. Ka-Vroom was a project of the Maple Ridge secondary FACTS (For Academically Creative and Talented Students) group, as an event to help bring the community together.

Led by Nic Renaud, it as now evolved into an extra-curricular high school club at Maple Ridge secondary, meeting every week to put on a soap box derby for younger kids.

The group plans the schedule, secures sponsorships, and makes presentations at elementary schools to get kids aged six to 14 jacked up about their race.

Sponsoring teacher Karen Aitken said they’re just a great group of kids.

Amy Liu, another Ka-Vroom sparkplug, takes the podium to tell the elementary school students about the event. She talks about races and trophies, balloon animals, pudding eating contests and Freezies. That last bit never fails to elicit a response from her audiences, and a Homer-esque “Freeeziees,” echoes through the crowd.

The teens get a charge out of putting together a fun event for kids.

“They [the racers] are always smiling, and they can’t wait to make their run, and then they can’t wait to run again,” said Renaud. “It really is a fun-filled family event.”

“You help the community, you get volunteer hours – it’s a win/win,” asserts Liu. “We’re volunteers, and we like to help out.”

Ka-Vroom first got the green light three years ago. They put on two events, were interrupted by teacher job action last year, and now are back, and giving up a lunch hour every week to organize.

The first year, they didn’t have the Freezies solid. Fortunately, the little racers found the syrup flavour is actually more important than the temperature. Another year, the organizers made way too much pudding for the pudding eating contest. Not about to let the leftovers go to waste, and as a reward for their community service, they sat down to a pudding feast. They consumed much of the 48 boxes of pudding between the eight of them, and to this day a few Ka-Vroomers can’t even look at mousse desserts.

But now the organizers of Ka-Vroom have their routine down pat. They have secured a golden sponsorship ($500) from the Maple Ridge Youth Council. There will be fully frozen Freezies, balloon animals, possibly a local band, and numerous features, including face painting. The only real issue to be decided is whether to deliberately make excess pudding.

The event runs June 1 on North Avenue, on a slope where the little cars can reach speeds of 50 km/h. The racers all wear helmets, and hay bales line the course.

The parent-child bonding that comes with building and racing a soap box derby car can be considerable.

Bob Johnston is a community volunteer who built a car for the group, so that kids who want to race but don’t have a car can take part.

He said it is a project that can be as basic or as complex as the builder wants.

“We estimate that for a family, it would be about 60 hours of work,” he said.

Building the basics takes an afternoon, but with the mechanics of brakes, steering and axles, “you can get as sophisticated as you want,” said Johnston.

Aitken’s dad spent most of a vacation visit building a second car. Her five-year-old son  Zachary put in his time with the tools, but when school was in session and his hosts were away, grandpa was kept pretty busy.

Karen likes the fact that her dad taught little Zachary to use a jigsaw and other tools. She jumped into the project when it was time to paint.

Now there are two Ka-Vroom cars.

The event runs June 1 on North Avenue. Last time there were more than 20 participants.

“We’re hoping for more this year,” said Renaud. “The more people we get, the more fun it is.”

The deadline for entries is May 1.