Dozens gathered to cheer on members of the Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center as they did their best to pilot pallet cars during the organization's Pallet Grand Prix, celebrating the working relationship between adults with disabilities and the companies that hire them.
"It's a soap box derby for grownups," said Chad Miller, marketing specialist and race organizer. "It brings the community together and creates awareness."
PARC's mission is to reduce economic stress for those with disabilities by training them and helping them find employment in the community. The derby celebrates these successes.
"This year's theme was Mission: Impossible, so anything went. It's about creating that individuality," Miller said. "The IRS came dressed in black suits and sunglasses like Men in Black."
Brady Industries only watched the races in the past, but decided to become a participant this year. They were given a pallet and created a janitorial suppliers dream.
"We really wanted our car to represent what we do," said Mark Larson of Brady Industries. "That's why we built the car body out of toilet paper even the headlights were made of jumbo rolls of toilet paper, a soap dispenser, and two mops hanging off back blowing in the wind. We had a lot of fun creating our car to represent our work with PARC."
Bryan Knight, one of PARC's employees, rode in the Brady car pointing at anyone trying to get ahead of them. Knight is successfully employed by PARC. He showed off his trophy before stuffing it into his pocket with a smile spread from ear to ear.
"They are on show and feel special to be a part of it. We have been happy to be a partner with them for a long time," said Larson. "There is nothing better than to see people with disabilities contribute and feel fulfilled in a job or at a task that they know and can do. It is very rewarding to be part of PARC just to see the light bulbs go on and to see them do a job that they can do."
PARC looks at the skills that each person has and they partner them with a company that can use those skills. Brady Industries is the janitorial supplier and PARC is the manpower behind those same contracts. PARC trains individuals with disabilities to do a thorough job by using their abilities. It is hard for these individuals to compete in the market place against others that don't have these challenges, so this gives them a way to compete, officials said. Several PARC members are employed at local fast food businesses.
Other individuals work in-house on several contracts that have saved local businesses money and time. For instance, these in-house individuals at PARC took over the contract and saved money for Honeywell by packaging Fram Oil Filters, officials said.
Volunteers are a big help to PARC. One group of individuals, that work in-house, had trouble with names or identifying letters or numbers, but they could identify animal pictures. PARC, along with some volunteer engineering students, developed a system that will allow them to organize using these animal symbols for different organizations.
"It is a great organization to be a part of and they do great things," said Larson. "It gives disabled people an opportunity to get out and work to really feel valuable in that process. I would encourage everyone to be a part of it."
PARC, started in 1972, is administered by the Davis County School District and helps between 400 and 500 people with disabilities find employment each year. Businesses that can provide diverse working environments are important to helping PARC find employment for its clients. Some of the companies that are PARC clients are Wilson, Orbit, Horizon Credit Union, Stephen's, U.S. Air Force, Stroops and Lifetime.
By the numbers
14 million • Number of Americans of working age with significant disabilities receiving federal disability and medical benefits
$500 billion • Amount those benefits cost each year.
.5 percent • Number of recipients who stop receiving benefits because they work each year.
70 percent • Minimum estimate of chronic unemployment among all Americans with significant disabilities
(801) 402-0950 • Phone number businesses interested in partnering with PARC may call.
Source: Josh Lopez, PARC program director