Tippets play together, stay together

The Tippets family (from left to right: Jenna, David, Melissa, Meghan Johnson, and Jacob (not pictured)), are looking forward to tomorrow’s Fourth Annual Silverdale Soap Box Derby. - Photo by Aaron Managhan
The Tippets family (from left to right: Jenna, David, Melissa, Meghan Johnson, and Jacob (not pictured)), are looking forward to tomorrow’s Fourth Annual Silverdale Soap Box Derby.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

You’ll have to forgive David and Melissa Tippets if their jaws are still hanging a little low at the Fourth Annual Silverdale Soap Box Derby this weekend.

The Tippets family, one of the families at the backbone of the Silverdale soap-box community, is still in a slight state of shock over being named Washington’s representatives for Levi Strauss Signature All-American Soap Box Derby “Family of the Year.”

“We were shocked pretty much,” David Tippets said. “We didn’t even know we were nominated.”

“It was a complete surprise,” wife Melissa added.

The Tippets family, David, Melissa, son Jacob and daughters Jenna Tippets and Meghan Johnson, have been involved with the Silverdale Soap Box Derby since its inception four years ago. But that alone is not what garnered their nomination.

Rather, it was the way they opened up to anyone willing to give soap box racing a try.

“They’re always open to sharing info on how the cars are built, tweaking them a little bit, things to make them go faster,” said Bill Court, Silverdale Soap Box Derby director. “They’re always loading other’s cars with their cars. They’re always taking kids with their kids. They’ve opened their home for us to build cars there.”

Court, who nominated the Tippets along with Bill Wright (the Wrights are another deeply involved soap box family), said it was a challenge on the application to fit in what makes them such an asset to the soap box community in just 140 words.

“I just thought, ‘Yay!’” Court said, “’I got it all in 140 words!’”

When chatting with the family, it’s easy to see the difficulty in Court’s task.

In addition to the traits Court mentioned, the family also refurbishes old derby cars and helps find sponsors to give more kids the opportunity to race.

“We recycle the cars,” Melissa said. “Every year we pull them in and give them to new drivers.”

“We have a lot of cars bought by sponsors that still need drivers,” David added. “We’re always looking for new kids.”

The Tippets got started when the company Melissa works for, DONOBi, Inc., bought two cars for the inaugural race in 2003.

“We didn’t even know it existed,” she said.

Since the Tippets had two drivers, both parents said it was a nice way to get their kids involved in a positive family activity.

“We’re a blended family,” Melissa said. “It’s been really good to have a sport the kids can do really good in. It’s a family-focus thing.”

“And it gives the kids an opportunity to learn about tools and how to work on something,” David said. “They pretty much assemble the cars themselves.”

Both daughters will be racing in Sunday’s derby. Meghan, 10, said her favorite part is the speed.

“I like going down the hill,” she said, showing off the good luck charms that reside inside both her and Jenna’s racers. “I’m trying to get a trophy.”

Jenna, 11, is equally excited for the upcoming race.

“I just like racing and making new friends,” she said. “I want to go to Akron.”

The winner of the Silverdale derby gets to compete at the national competition in Akron, Ohio on July 22. In addition to the regular derby races, the Tippets have also been taking part in the rally racing circuit.

“It’s another way for the kids to qualify to go back to Akron,” David said.

“A family that plays together, stays together,” Melissa said. “We play together.”

The Fourth Annual Silverdale Soapbox Derby begins at 10 a.m. tomorrow on Ridgetop Boulevard.

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