Going for ‘Gold Rush’ – soapbox derby car set to roll for good cause

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
There’s a “Gold Rush” getting ready to hit downtown Salisbury.
That’s the name of the entry Rowan Vocational Opportunities and Ben Mynatt Nissan teamed up to build for this evening’s Rowan County United Way Soapbox Derby. The “gold” comes from the color of the paint, explained Glenn McDonald, Rowan Vocational’s sales and marketing director, at Thursday’s unveiling, “and we hope it rushes.”
The more than 200 staff and employees on the Rowan Vocational “extended pit crew” appeared confident that the Gold Rush will “rush” across the finish line before any of its competitors.
When asked if the eight Ben Mynatt body shop employees who built the Gold Rush had any advice for the other entrants, manager Tommy Howard responded, “Good luck.”
Matt Beanblossom, who will drive the Gold Rush in the race, offered this challenge to competitors: “Catch us if you can.”
Though Beanblossom will take the wheel this evening, Curtis Williams, warehouse supervisor at Rowan Vocational, sat in the driver’s seat Thursday. Wearing sunglasses, a matching gold helmet and a big smile, Williams seemed to be enjoying all the attention.
He had only one thing to say about the ride: “It’s going to win.”
McDonald, who restores classic cars as a hobby with his brother, came up with the idea of Rowan Vocational entering the soapbox derby รณ one of several attractions planned for this evening’s Rowan County United Way kickoff being held for the first time as part of Friday’s Family Night Out in downtown Salisbury.
Through their collaboration on the project, McDonald told the developmentally and physically disabled employees of Rowan Vocational that the Ben Mynatt employees had come to “understand what you guys do and how important you are and how important United Way is to us.”
Rowan Vocational Opportunities is one of 16 agencies supported by the Rowan County United Way.
When McDonald mentioned the idea of entering the soapbox derby to new Rowan Vocational Director John Williams, he was all for it.
“And from a public relations standpoint,” McDonald said, “I thought it was a great opportunity. Also, we’re supporting United Way.”
The Gold Rush is made from a wheelchair, two 10-speed bicycles and part of a go-kart. It features a stock car body, a Nissan emblem on the front and part of an Altima spoiler.
Beanblossom said he and his co-workers spent about 40 hours working on the Gold Rush. And that’s not counting the 30 hours of thought that went into it beforehand, Howard said.
Speaking for all eight of the Ben Mynatt employees, Beanblossom said it was a privilege to build the Gold Rush for Rowan Vocational and the United Way. And it was a lot of fun, added Jamie Chappell.
Other Ben Mynatt employees who worked on the Gold Rush were Gary Brown, Dale Reamy, Brent Culp, Brian Smith and Todd Stewart.
Ten other companies joined the Nissan dealership in contributing to the Gold Rush through donations of labor/time, discounts, expertise and money: Rouzer’s Motor Parts/PPG, Fisher Athletic, Sign Design, Designer Auto Trim, Supply One, Quick Copy, Stock Car Steel, R & S Services, Caldwell Paper & Packaging and Dent-Tek.
McDonald said he took two Rowan Vocational workers, both avid Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, over to the Ben Mynatt body shop when the Gold Rush was being built. Jimmy Hunter and James Reynolds agreed: “It’s going to be fast.”
Another Rowan Vocational worker, Pam Stamey, was thrilled when Ben Mynatt employees pushed her wheelchair up to the front of the group surrounding the Gold Rush.
“I loved it,” she said. “I wish I could get in it. I’m a big race fan.”
She pulls for several NASCAR racers, but like Hunter and Reynolds, her favorite is Dale Earnhardt Jr.
McDonald said seeing Stamey so excited almost brought tears to his eyes. Whether the Gold Rush wins or loses the soapbox derby, he said, “we’ve already won.”
The Rowan County United Way kickoff will begin at 6 p.m. in downtown Salisbury. Other featured attractions will include a car bash fundraiser, music by The Fabulous Kays and inflatables, games and pony rides for children.