In each issue of HemAware, we “Take 5” with people in the bleeding disorders community and spotlight their accomplishments with just five questions. This month, HemAware met Graham Koch of Houston, Texas, a 10-year-old with severe hemophilia A who competed in the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship in July 2007.
2010 Update on Graham Koch:
Since coming in first in the 2007 Greater Houston Soap Box Derby race, Graham Koch, now 13, won again. He took home the top prize in the Super Stock division in Houston in October 2009. That win proved to Graham that the 2007 win was not a fluke, he says. It was also the last race at the old “overpass hill” location. The Houston area now has a beautiful, newly built hill dedicated to Soapbox Derby races, where Graham now volunteers. Graham also remains active in Boy Scouts and is working on his Life Scout rank. He attended hemophilia camp, Camp Ailihpomeh, in Waco, Texas, in July 2010.
How did you get involved with soap box derby racing? Is it popular in Houston?
Two years ago, I went to the Houston Autorama with my mom and dad. While we were there, my dad and me went to the All-American Soap Box Derby desk and they told us all about soap box derby racing. The hill’s near my house and I love cars, so we just went to the Web site and signed up online.
Soap box derby racing isn’t that popular where I live. None of my friends from school race, but it’s been great because I’ve met lots of other kids who race and made a bunch of new friends.
How does soap box racing work?
One thing that’s really cool about soap box racing is that you get to make your own car. You order a kit online from the All-American Soap Box Derby Web site and then put the car together yourself. You can’t use your own parts, but you get to choose your own colors. My racer is orange and black.
Once you have your racer, you just go onto the All-American Soap Box Derby Web site, read the rule book and sign up for a race near you.
Did you have any trouble racing because of your hemophilia? What do you do before racing to protect against having a bleed?
Not really—I usually go sign up for the race, come back home and infuse and then go back for the race. That’s worked really well for me so far. To get ready for a race, I exercise four times a week with my Total Gym®. I usually do curls, arms, crunches and squats.
You came in first in the 2007 Greater Houston Soap Box Derby race. Congratulations! This qualified you to compete in the 70th annual All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio. What was it like to race on that permanent, historic track?
Thanks—it was really exciting! It was the first time that I’ve gotten into the top five in a race. When I won, I’d only been racing for a year and a half—it was my fourth race. My mom and dad were really surprised, and I was, too! It was great—I feel like I can do anything now.
Racing on the track at Derby Downs was awesome. It was really fun because it’s a downhill slope so you go fast. I made a lot of new friends there, too.
Is there anything you’d like to say to other kids out there with bleeding disorders?
I’d tell other kids not to get down, to keep going and be strong. If you want to do something, talk to your parents about it and figure out how you can be safe. Don’t quit until you have a fine performance or win.