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Hosting a Pinewood Derby for Children with Special Needs

Amid the typical cheers and laughter heard at Pinewood Derbies across the country, something very special was happening at April 22’s Pinewood Derby in Neenah, WI.

As part of Autism Awareness Month, children with special needs crafted and raced cars, received patches, and participated in the fun of Cub Scouts. They enjoyed a day of adventure alongside Scouts, many of whom also had special needs.

And while the event evidenced all children reap major benefits from Scouting, adult leaders in Cub Scouts have something to gain, too. For Bay Lakes Council Cub Scout leaders Brendan Marston, Jeff Berzowski and Jeremy Searl, this gain was a spirit of inclusivity that originated in Wood Badge (a leadership development course for Scouting’s adult volunteers).

Read below as Jeff outlines how the pack prepared to host a Pinewood Derby for children with special needs:

To promote the event, a Facebook page and an EventBrite page were set up.  The project team reached out to four different school districts and the special needs coordinators of each school district to let them know about the event.  The team also contacted local non-profits that focus on children with special needs.  For example, The Autism Society of the Fox Valley was instrumental in promoting the event.

Prior to the event, we held a disabilities awareness meeting  for Pack 3045/3074’s Cub Scouts. Each Scout who participated earned a disabilities awareness patch.

To assist in planning the event, the project coordinators met several times with a local Special Needs Boy Scout Troop and requested they attend our event and help out.

The Day of the Pinewood Derby Race


After significant preparation for race day attendees, the event rolled into action. Read on for Jeff’s account of the Pinewood Derby for children with special needs:

The event was a resounding success.  Popcorn, hot dogs and water were served.  All participants received a patch, the car they made, and a coupon from a local company supporting the event.  The participants were very excited to race, and we ran 30 heats down our four lane track.  Troop 10 (the special needs Troop) conducted the flag ceremony, helped the participants decorate their cars, and served as pit crew.  After the event, the rest of the 40 cars were assembled by pack Scouts and their siblings, and we held another impromptu race.


If this is the kind of event your pack wants to take part in, follow Pack 3045/3074’s lead to make children of all abilities feel welcome and included in your event.

If your child isn’t in Cub Scouts and would like participate in Scouting, find a pack near you and see what options are available for children with differing needs.