The oldest member of Hope Community Christian Reformed Church in Mount Brydges, Ontario, recently won the church’s annual Family Day kubcar (pinewood car) derby race.
Herman VanDongen, 92, picked up a model car kit simply because he had never made a kubcar before and thought it would be nice to join the fun. “I did not expect to win. It was just fun for the kids.”
The race, which historically was for the Cadets boys’ groups, has been open to anyone in the congregation since 2011. “It’s an activity for the whole congregation, all ages, to interact and build community,” said senior Cadet leader Matt Adema. On race day, a Sunday in mid-February, the congregation held a potluck lunch after church while the race track was set up in the aisle of the sanctuary.
Car kits were available in the weeks leading up to the event, with the same guidelines as the Calvinist Cadet Corps requirements: the block of wood is 7” x 2” (17.8 cm x 5 cm) and the finished car must weigh 5 ounces (142g) or less, including added decorations. “It’s fun to look at the other cars,” said VanDongen. “Some kids had made buses. It’s neat to see how they decorate them.” He laughed, “I made a Cadillac.” Marking where to cut, shaping the car, and adding the finishing touches came naturally to VanDongen, who enjoys woodworking as a hobby.
The competition was divided into five age groups, with the slowest racer removed after each heat, explained Adema. “At the end of the day, the five fastest cars race. People were definitely getting into the competitive side of things.” More than 50 cars competed this year.
As VanDongen’s car made it further into the competition, excitement grew. “Herman did say he didn’t build his car to win—he just built it for the experience. The fact that it went down the fastest was surprising and exciting. Everyone was hoping he’d win,” said Adema. “It was neat to watch his face.”
At the end of the day, VanDongen’s car was one of the five finalists. When his car pulled ahead and crossed the finish line first, “I was real surprised. There was a lot of cheering,” he said. “They gave me a medal and then a trophy. It was fun.”