“Christian was getting sideways at school, getting into fights and back-talking people,” said Simpson, who four years ago gained full custody of Christian and his twin sister Sophia. “He couldn’t behave for a week straight. So I was trying to find something that would attract him, hold his attention; something I could dangle as a carrot.”
The carrot turned out to be go-carts. A friend of Simpson who owned a go-cart suggested that Christian take a spin on one around the parking lot at Orwood Resort.
“That was it for him,” said Simpson. “He loved it, and he’s a natural. After that, I started taking him to the Stockton Autoplex and he was doing really well. But what I really noticed was that there was no arguing, no complaining and no fighting with his sister when we were there. I told him that if he could behave like this at school, then I would buy him his own go-cart. And since then, there have been no more problems … well, at least very few.”
Simpson’s own positive experience got him thinking about how he might help other children struggling as his son had, and the answer was Kids Finish 1st: a nonprofit resource program for children 8 to 13 with an interest in riding – and working – on anything with wheels. The idea behind the program, which Simpson combines with his Kidz R U$ full-service engine garage, is to offer kids a hands-on, up-close experience.
“I’ve been a car nut all my life, and since this worked so well with Christian, I figured maybe I could do some good for some other kids too,” said Simpson. “If you can get their hands on something they like, get them interested and give them some motivation, I think it can make a difference.”
Interested participants can sign up for the free program, which includes working a few hours a week at the garage, “sweeping up a little, getting familiar with the tools – that kind of thing,” said Simpson. On the weekends, the group heads out to places like the Stockton track or goes dirt biking, or in the summer, jet-skiing.
“I’m going to try and get the kids to come out two or three times a week for a few hours and then take them on the weekends,” said Simpson, who also owns a construction business. “We’re so close to so many different tracks here that the sky’s the limit. And don’t forget the girls … girls rule.”
Since his grand opening of the shop last month, located on Byron Highway next to Red Barn Hotrods, Simpson said the response has been positive.
“The foot traffic has been amazing; we’ve gotten a whole lot of business,” said Simpson. “You know kids grow out of stuff so fast that this is really something they can continue to grow with. They can buy and sell their stuff; we’ll probably take stuff on consignment, too. We’re still figuring it all out.”
But one thing Simpson has figured out is the benefits of a program like Kids Finish 1st. “If 10 kids sign-up, and I can help three, or even one, then I’ll be happy,” he said. “If I can get them doing something rewarding and productive, it’ll be worthwhile. I know the first time my son got on (a go-cart), his grin inside that helmet filled the whole space. I want to give that to other kids, too.”
Kidz R U$ is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday and Monday by appointment. For more information on Kids Finish 1st or volunteer/mentor opportunities, call 925-413-8031 or 925-240-TOYZ.