Box-car program attracts young racers
By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer
Kids don't always know what's good for them, which is why they have parents and organizations like American Box Car Racing International.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
Cy Silva, 9, left, and Arthur Redditt, 11, prepare to race their cars at the American Box Car Racing International track in Pearl City.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
"He told me, 'I don't want to go, I'm not interested,' " Lam said with a laugh. "I said, 'Just give it a try.'
"When I came to pick him up, he did this," she said, flashing a thumb's up. "He said, 'Mom, it's the best.' "
Aaron is one of eight boys who, along with four girls, signed up for the 12 slots in the spring break program available to kids 8-18.
Most of them fall in the younger age range, though.
"My sister, she doesn't like to come here," said Melissa Dietz, 10, and then flashed a knowing look. "She's in her pre-teen years."
Today is the last day for the program, during which the kids have spent 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. learning to drive and how to teach others to drive box cars. The first hour of lessons covers building, repair and maintenance, said B.C. Cowling, the organization's executive director.
Most of the rest of the day is spent with the fun stuff: driving.
"They have to wear tennis shoes and long jeans," he said. "It has to cover their ankles, that's the important part."
That's to protect tender skin from the inevitable scuffing when the young Mario Andrettis sail down the ramp onto the asphalt track, said Kelly Carrington, the group leader.
"Some kids have a tendency to put their feet down and they scrape their legs," said the Leeward Community College sophomore who leads the group.
Carrington said she asked the kids at the start of the week how they wanted to spend their time. No big surprise: Driving ranked first, building box cars second. Nobody thought about patching tire inner tubes, which is how yesterday started.
"Try to put it the other way," Carrington suggested to 11-year-old Arthur Redditt, who was clamping a wooden block into a vise. The kids gathered around and started looping the ailing tubes over the blocks and smearing rubber patches with cold vulcanizing fluid something like rubber cement.
"Don't pull the plastic off," she advised.
"Awww, messed up!" Aaron groaned.
The repair work, as well as the other chores keeping the track clear, helping to guide paying customers who use the track are part of the pay-back for the free program, said Carrington, who is aiming at a degree in mechanical engineering.
Volunteer service is a big part of the nonprofit ABCRI mission. It's how Carrington found the organization: searching volunteer listings to fulfill public service requirements at Sacred Hearts Academy where, as a senior, she was active with the electric car program.
Service is one of those values parents love to teach their children.
"My auntie read about it in a newspaper," said Michelle Perry, Melissa's cousin. "Our reward isn't money; it's that we get to ride."
Pati St. John is a homeschooling mom who brings her son, Jay, to the program and relishes the opportunity to have him meet new children. But she loves the teamwork lessons, too.
"The other day, one of the kids swore, and they all had to sit out. So they're learning how to work together as a team, and that inappropriate behavior affects everyone.
"It's a really nice program, and it's a form that seems to be working," she said.
The telltale sign of success: The kids are eager to come back.
"(Aaron is) so tired at night," Lam said. "After this he has soccer, basketball, karate. But the next day, it's 'Mom let's go!' "
Reach Vicki Viotti at email@example.com or 525-8053.