Annual Challenge Race gives all kids a chance to hit the race track

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Families from across Snohomish County gathered at Lynnwood Elementary School Saturday to participate in the Rotary Club of Lynnwood’s annual Challenge Series Race.

The race pairs up children 5 and older who have developmental disabilities with older children trained as co-drivers to guide the cars and apply the brakes along the course. The event is co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lynnwood, the City of Lynnwood, the Edmonds School District and Life Enrichment Options (LEO). LEO is a nonprofit that advocates for and works to support individuals with developmental disabilities through supportive housing, recreation, employment opportunities and community education

The two-person derby cars featured at the Challenge Series Race were designed by Leo Finnegan, who also co-hosts the event. He said he was inspired by his own son, who is developmentally delayed and enjoyed racing

This year’s races drew 50 drivers — double last year’s turnout — and 12 passengers, according to Lynnwood Rotary Club’s Debbie Bodal. It is the fourth year the Rotary Club has participated in the event.

Attending the event for the second straight year was NASCAR’s youngest female racer, Molly Helmuth. A Seattle native, Helmuth said she believes it is important to continue to volunteer and support your community.

“When I was able to come out here last year and meet a lot of great people and see the smiles on your faces as you were racing, that’s what I live and breathe for,” she said.

Seattle Seahawks mascot Blitz and Everett AquaSox mascot Webbly also made guest appearances.

Assisting with Saturday’s races was Zachary Hochman, a 16-year-old Rotary Club volunteer and former Challenge Series Racer. Hochman began racing at 9 years old but had to quit in 2012 when he became too big for the derby cars.

In addition to volunteering, Hochman used his experience with racing to organize a crew of volunteers to build two new race cars for LEO and the special-needs community as part of his Eagle Scout Project. He also helped raise $2,700 in donations through GoFundMe for LEO.

The Challenge Series Race also included games, a face-painting station, bouncy house and raffle prizes presented by Lynnwood City Councilmember Shannon Sessions, who emceed the event.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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