Rope Runners were invented by Kate Christman, of Stockport, Ohio, in the 1990’s.
Kate was a lifelong Girl Scout herself, from Brownies to Seniors. She then became a Troop Leader when her own daughter, Elizabeth (a future Gold Award winner,) was old enough to be a Brownie, and went along as her Troop Leader through to Seniors. It was during this time that the idea of creating Rope Runners came to her, after she was asked to judge a local PineWood Derby event for the Boy Scouts. She thought her Girl Scout Troop would enjoy a similar event. But she, an artist, wanted something that would offer more variety and opportunity for creativity than the PineWood vehicle format. Also it would be nice to find a way to avoid the unwieldy wooden track used by the PineWood Derbies. Kate remembered a childhood toy sent by her Aunt Shelby who was living in Germany. It was a little tin man who rolled down a rope with weights on poles (like tight-rope walkers use) to balance him. Rope Runners was born!
The first Rope Runners, made just for her own Troop, went through various stages of development. The first ones had used golf balls donated by a local golf course for the weights. They worked well, but drilling the holes in them proved… exciting. Some had spent a long time in water traps, and the water came bursting out when the ball was drilled! When other Troops and Service Units in the area started clamoring for Rope Runners they too could race, wooden balls were settled upon. Kate got a loan and started a small business. From Stockport, Ohio, she sold Rope Runners all across the country, through word-of-mouth. Even Daisies made them.
Father-Daughter events were popular, as well as recruitment and summer camp activities. Troops and Councils held Derbies, but most were at the Service Unit and Troop level. Girl Scouts sent photographs of their creations, which were AMAZING!! There were many animals, including giraffes, a bunny with foot-long ears,streaming out behind, and also the Disneyland “Magic Castle,” a Statue of Liberty, and others too many to list. What great fun!
During the COVID lockdown, Kate closed her business, for reasons of health. But she says she couldn’t be more thrilled that someone has “picked up the baton.” Long live Rope Runners!