Teen who lost leg to cancer to make history at Indianapolis Soap Box Derby

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An Indianapolis teen will make history this weekend by being the first Indianapolis Soap Box Derby driver to compete with only one leg.

Jaisen Evans, 19, says he never considered soap box derby as something he’d like to try. But that changed three weeks ago when he was passing by the Wilbur Shaw Memorial Hill near 30th and Cold Springs Road.

“I was passing by the ramp and I was seeing all the cars go down and I was like well maybe I can get in one of those,” Evans said.

That initial excitement was quickly dampened by a familiar hesitation.

“But then I got second thoughts like ‘nah, my leg’s not going to let me do that,’” he said.

Evans lost half of his leg to cancer when he was 6-years-old. Since then, his road has been harder than most. He says all those years of overcoming adversity have given him the confidence to try new things.

“I just totally forget about it,” Evans said. “And I didn’t let this hold me back. I just went out and did everything that I wanted to do.”

Most of the time, Evans’ prosthetic leg is helpful and barely noticeable under his jeans.

“I walk perfectly fine, don’t let anything stop me from doing what I want to do,” Evans said.

When Evans approached the Indianapolis Inner City Youth Racing League about getting into a soap box derby car, he quickly learned he was better off without his prosthetic.

“We didn’t even realize he had a prosthetic leg,” said IICYRL Director, Larry Thienes. “My first thought was he’s big, I don’t know if we could get him in the car, but we certainly would try.”

At first, Thienes says Evans struggled to squeeze into the tiny race car. That’s when he sat up, got out, and took off his prosthetic leg.

“Oh, we had no idea,” Thienes said. “We would have torn down the walls of Jericho ourselves to get him in that car and race.”

Once Evans took off the prosthetic, he had a much easier time squeezing into the car.

“I just take off my leg,” Evans said. “Then I just scoot down, hop in and I’m ready to drive.”

“His other concern was being able to use the brake,” Thienes said. “In the Masters Division, we have hand brakes. So it worked out great.”

Less than a month later, Evans is driving the soap box derby car like a natural and zipping down the hill course at more than 30 miles-per-hour. At 19, he’ll be the oldest rookie in the Indianapolis Mayor’s Cup Soap Box Derby.

Evans says he’s thrilled at the idea of making history this weekend. Beyond that, he wants to win it.

“Apparently carries no bitterness for what life has dealt him,” Thienes said. “He has figured out ways to overcome it and this was just another step.”

“Don’t let this hold me back,” Evans said. “Keep going for the goals that I want to go for.”

“Just because you have half a leg or a missing arm, you can still do what you want to do as long as you put your mind to it.”

The Indianapolis Mayor’s Cup Soap Box Derby takes place Saturday, May 19 from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at Wilbur Shaw Memorial Hill located near 30th Street and Cold Springs Road.

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