By Rebecca Rose

Harker Heights Herald

There's a new way to "Race for the Cure."

Today, pine car derby enthusiasts will take over the Harker Heights Activities Center to compete in races and raise money to fight breast cancer. Catered by Petty's BBQ, the event benefits the Susan G. Komen foundation.

The idea for the kid-friendly event started when Killeen native and event organizer Donna Manuel was a college student in Iowa.

She said her experience working on various service learning projects in college stuck with her when she returned to Killeen.

She started the event as part of Susan G. Komen's "Passionately Pink Events," which encourages people to find ways to raise money for the foundation.

Manuel wanted to do a fundraising event that would appeal to parents and their children, one they could participate in as a family.

"It's for breast cancer awareness," she said. "So I wanted to involve everyone. Susan G. Komen has a 'Race for the Cure,' so I thought, 'What would be more perfect than to race these kinds of cars? What little kids don't love to race cars?'"

The pine derby is a racing event in which participants build their own miniature cars out of wood. Unlike soapbox derby racing in which competitors build cars big enough for them to sit and drive in, pine derby cars are small, roughly the size of a block of wood.

Participants must provide their own cars to race with, Manuel said. Kits can be purchased for as little as $5 at local hobby shops and contain a few simple elements such as a block of pine, wheels and axles.

Manuel said information about how to build a car and tips for winning races are available online through several fan sites.

The track for the race was donated to use for the day by the scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout chapter.

The 10-foot wooden track is unique because it records results digitally, Manuel said.

"These are quick races," she said. "The cars shoot down one big digital track, four at a time."

Prizes will be awarded in several age categories. A dozen vendors will also be on hand for the day, including Party Lite, Discovery Toys, Pampered Chef and more.

Josh Petty is one of the co-owners of Petty's BBQ in Killeen. Petty has been friends with Manuel since they were both schoolchildren in Killeen. When she approached him to help provide food at the fundraiser, Petty said the decision was easy.

"I'm more than happy to help them fight breast cancer," he said.

Petty said that while they won't be able to feature his restaurant's famed pit barbecue at the races, he was going to have traditional food like burgers, dogs, chips and more.

"I'm doing a dessert raffle as well. The funds go straight to them."

Manuel said she distributed more than 3,000 fliers at various locations and through local community groups, such as the YMCA and the Harker Heights Library.

The mother of two said for her, creating a kid-friendly event that was informative about a major disease such as breast cancer was vital.

"It's very important for people to realize this affects every member of the family," Manuel said. "It's not just an adult issue. You need to start with kids at a young age, so they have a better understanding and awareness of what's going on around them."

While it's not required, Manuel said she hoped people would remember to wear pink, to show their support for fighting breast cancer.

"Just go crazy with it," she said.

Manuel said the event is open to anyone who would like to support Susan G. Komen; participants do not have to race a car or have children to attend the event.

For more information about the event, call (361) 563-1005. For information on how to start a "Passionately Pink" event, go to

Contact Rebecca Rose at or (254) 501-7548.

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