Go Speed Racer

When Marco Dicarlo was a boy, he would sit at the window of his grandfather’s butcher shop in Philadelphia and watch the soap box derby from the top of a hill.

Years later, he recreated the scene from his childhood- except this time he isn’t just watching. He is hands on, pushing cars down the ramp, cheering his neighbors on.

The Madison Avenue Soapbox Derby is in full swing, now an annual event that sprung from Dicarlo’s desire to make a difference.

Walking into Madison Avenue on September 15th, one might expect the rain to douse the festivities.

Instead, Decatur neighbors line the sidewalks and cheer as loud as they can. People hoist their children onto sopping shoulders and excitedly wait for the next car to zoom down the hill.Volunteers in yellow shirts prepare to ease the racers’ descent, often ending with a crash into the hay bales below. The Madison Avenue Soap box Derby is definitely a community event, fueled by dedication and time.

The derby started as a simple idea: raise money for Gigi’s Playhouse, an organization devoted to supporting individuals with Down syndrome and their families.

“Our main mission is raising money that benefits children,” Dicarlo said. The event raised $5,000 in 2011, the first year. This money provided the funds to supply a kitchen in an Atlanta Gigi’s Playhouse school.

Besides helping families’ in need, Dicarlo sees the derby as an opportunity to bring local families closer to eachother.

“The idea behind it was really to promote parents and their kids spending time on something that was creative that they could have fun with together,” Dicarlo said.

He built a car with his son, who raced with his little sister in the backseat. “That’s what it’s about — having fun with kids,” Dicarlo said.

After spending an afternoon at the derby, it is easy to understand its popularity. The sheer togetherness of it all, and the sense of reaching goals with the help of neighbors is so uniquely Decatur.

The Madison Avenue Soapbox Derby captured the spirit of a street, of a neighborhood, and of something bigger — what happens when people come together out of love.

We hit Madison Avenue to check out the soapbox derby, which has grown to draw over 1000 people to the Oakhurst neighborhood.  These racers told us why they got involved and a little bit about their cars.

Madison Ave Soapbox from 3ten.org on Vimeo.

Soapbox derbies are fast-paced and full of energy.  Watch these racers fly down the track.

There’s a lot behind the scenes that goes on to make events like these work.  Students from Mark Jones’ graphic design class drafted and printed the designs that went on this year’s t-shirt.