If there is a common thread that exists in Manotick, it’s generosity.
Manotick residents have been generous with their willingness to support causes that impact the community. The community has been generous to donate to or support causes.
And it always seems that in the middle of every cause and campaign is one man.
“For the past couple of decades, the one person, above everyone, who has been a champion all of the activities and charitable campaigns in the community is Allan Haan,” said Messenger owner Jeffrey Morris. “We are pleased to name Allan the 2022 Al Corace Manotick Messenger Person of the Year.”
The Manotick Messenger began naming a person of the year in 2005. Following the 2011 sudden passing of Manotick Kiwanis Club member and relentless community volunteer Al Corace, it was decided that the honour would carry his name forward.
Haan has been front and centre of a number of initiatives in Manotick over the past couple of decades. An active member of the Royal Canadian Legion South Carleton Branch 314 in Manotick, Haan assumed a leadership role in the rebuilding of Harmony Hall after the building housing the Legion and the local Cadets burned down nearly 20 years ago.
“It seems that no matter what the project is or the need in the community is, Allan Haan is always there,” Morris said. “He is an incredibly generous person, his heart is always in the right place, and he thinks nothing of giving his time and expertise to seemingly any and every cause or project in the community.”
Haan was also a central figure in fundraising and organizing the orphanage that was built by Grace Aghostinho when she owned the French Café in the Manotick Mews. He was also front and centre in helping Watson’s Mill in its fundraising efforts for a new roof more than a decade ago.
As an active member of the Manotick Kiwanis, the Manotick Village Community Association, as well as the Legion, Haan has been one of the most visible people in the community over the past two decades. But what may end up being his legacy is the Allan Haan Manotick Soap Box Derby, which was named in his honour by the Manotick Village Community Association. This year’s soap box derby was the 10th, and the event has become a highlight for kids and families from throughout South Carleton and Eastern Ontario.
“We are renaming the derby after Allan starting this year to recognize all of the hard work he has put into it,” said Theresa Roberts of the Manotick Village Community Association in August. “It is now called the Allan Haan Manotick Soap Box Derby.”
Haan first brought the idea forward in 2011 during his regular coffee group at the French Café.
“At first, people just looked at me like I was crazy,” Haan said. “They didn’t really know about soap box derbies, and how kids get into it and their parents get into it. I talked about it for a while and then presented the idea to the Manotick Village Community Association.”
The first soap box derby was an overwhelming success. Kids started building their carts with their fathers and then decorated them. Some came from throughout Eastern Ontario and Quebec to participate in the event. The community turned out to cheer the kids on There were even celebrity drivers, and the most memorable moment in Manotick soap box history involved a man who hopes to become Canada’s next prime minister.
“That is one moment everyone still seems to talk about,” said Haan. “Pierre (Poilievre) was racing, and he couldn’t stop his cart. He turned into the parking lot at the bottom of the hill and crashed into the shed. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt.”
Through the years, the MVCA had instructions available on how to build a cart and what the specifications are. Manotick Home Hardware has been a headquarters through the years for supplies for building carts. Kids don’t have to be good at soccer or hockey or dance to be good at the derby. It’s something for every kid.
“I think building the carts is just as fun as race day,” Haan said. “It is really rewarding to see the kids with their carts and the decorating they have done.”
Photo: Allan Haan was able to turn a simple idea for a soap box derby in Manotick into one of the most popular annual events in the village.