Corbin Bernsen talks about saving Soap Box Derby

Fri, Oct 21

After reading a newspaper story in September 2009 about the financial difficulties of the All-American Soap Box Derby, actor/director Corbin Bernsen was inspired to do something about it.

So Bernsen, famous for his roles in "L.A. Law" and "Major League," wrote a screenplay about a 12-year-old boy whose Derby dreams are threatened when his father is killed in Afghanistan and the Derby is fighting for its life because of money troubles.

That movie became "25 Hill." It's out in selected theatres these days, and Bernsen is traveling the country promoting the film and getting people interested in the Soap Box Derby.

"This sport is Americana. Are we going to let these kinds of traditions go?" said Bernsen, who grew up in California and has been in more than 50 movies and TV shows. "I didn't race as a kid. But I'm following my instincts. My hope is that people will see this is at the core about family and community. And if we can save this sport, it's like putting one little brick back into that American foundation."

The All-American Soap Box Derby was founded in 1933 and is one of the most established grassroots youth and family organizations in the United States. The Soap Box Derby sanctions races in more than 150 cities in the United States and six foreign countries. The annual world championship is held each July at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio. Just two years ago, the organization was nearly $500,000 in debt. The group is slowing working out of the red.

"You're talking box cars going 30 mph and 900 feet, so it's not that exciting, but you start to see the values in the participants," Bernsen said. "Everyone is rooting each other on. It's about everyone coming together. It's a model of what we need as Americans to do."