Unified Derby allows kids with disabilities to experience Pinewood fun
By John Swinconeck, Contributing Writer
Hudson — The Pinewood Derby is a Cub Scout tradition that dates back more than 60 years, but Hudson’s Pack 4 is doing something to make it extra special. The Second Annual Unified Pinewood Derby, which welcomes children with special needs, will be held Feb. 1 at Joseph L Mulready School.
The Unified Pinewood Derby seeks to provide a fun, free activity for children who may have special educational, physical, or development needs, according to Steve Walsh, cubmaster of Pack 4, which is organizing the event. Both boys and girls in kindergarten through high school school are welcome.
The event was inspired by the Hudson Unified Basketball program, which pairs students with disabilities with student partners in order to foster sportsmanship and friendships, according to Walsh.
The Unified Derby is held in conjunction with the scouts’ regular Pinewood Derby.
About a dozen guest racers with special needs participated in last year’s event, and Walsh said he was hoping for more this year.
“One of the cornerstones of scouting is community service,” said Walsh. “The boys practice the core value of compassion, and this is an opportunity for the to connect with children who may have different needs.”
Boy Scout and former Pack 4 member Johnny Walsh, who is Steve Walsh’s son, said the event provides a positive experience all around.
“It’s as much fun for scouts as it is for the guest racers,” said Johnny Walsh. “Every kid in our pack loved this event. They get the experience [working with those with disabilities] and they have fun. There’s nothing greater than that.”
According to the Boy Scouts of America Pinewood Derby website, the first derby was held in 1953, and started the tradition of building a racer out of a block of wood, four wheels, and four nails that was propelled only by gravity.
Scouts and guest racers will build their own miniature cars from kits containing wood for the car body, plastic wheels and metal axles. The finished car is about 6 inches long.
Guest racers will build their cars Friday night, Jan. 31, and scouts, as well as their parents and scout leaders, will be there to help. Everything a guest racer needs, including the car kit, paints, and more, will be provided. No special skills or tools are needed.
“We bought kits that were already cut in a wedge shape, added the weights in advance and put a coat of primer on,” Walsh said. “The kids will decorate them with paint, stickers, and markers.
They put the wheels on and the cars are ready to race the next day.”
On race day Feb. 1, every child will get to see his or her car race at least four times. The cars race along a straight, inclined track, powered only by the force of gravity without the need for a motor or other propulsion.
And while cars are awarded for their speed, many are also awarded for the originality of their design. At their home, the Walsh family proudly displays cars in the shape of a classic Dodge Charger, a pencil, an alligator, a half pipe, and even “Sting,” the sword from “The Hobbit.”
“I just like making weird cars every year, cars that aren’t normal,” said Chris Walsh, Steve Walsh’s other son, who is a Pack 4 Webelo. “Who’s ever seen a purple pencil racing?”
The Feb. 1 races start after a pizza and ice cream lunch at noon, to be followed by awards. All racers will go home with a souvenir and their cars.
The event may also serve as an introduction to scouting for those with disabilities. “There’s a definite place in Scouts for everyone, regardless of their abilities,” Walsh said.
Register at http://tinyurl.com/Pack4UnifiedDerby. The registration deadline has been moved from Jan. 26 to Jan. 29, said Walsh.
Space is limited, and racers will need to attend both days in order to participate.
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