Ava McCollim has a driving ambition to win, and it has taken her to the mecca of soapbox derby racing.
The South Elgin 9-year-old will race at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio, for a chance at a world championship in July. What makes the accomplishment even more special is she battles health issues including epilepsy, autism and ADHD.
"I was just hoping to get through the rookie year," said Ava's mother, Heather. "I didn't expect this." After finding out Ava qualified for the World Rally Stock Championship by earning enough racing points during the season, the duo went to tell her grandfather Fred McCollim. He is in hospice care and raced soapbox cars as a child in the 1940s.
"His eyes got real big and he said, 'I never thought my granddaughter would do this!'" Heather said.
Ava took up soapbox derby racing in 2015 after being turned away from other organizations because of her health issues. Racing has helped her focus and her epileptic seizures have quieted, according to her mother.
Organized soapbox racing started in Akron in the 1930s and The All American Soapbox Derby at Derby Downs is considered the ultimate destination for racers around the world. Soapbox cars are fiberglass and race side-by-side, downhill, propelled only by gravity.
This year's world championships run July 10-18.