Driving family fun: Soap box derby raises money for DARE

With a steely-eyed look, 5-year-old Tinslee Schulz of Brownstown kept her focus on the finish line in front of her.

The countdown started, 3…2…1…, and with a pull of a lever, she was rolling down the starting ramp in a homemade soap box derby car and onto the street.

In the lane next to her was her opponent, her brother, Presten Schulz, 6, in what was deemed a sibling “grudge match.”

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With her hands on the wheel, Tinslee kept the car on a straight and steady path and crossed the finish line first.

Her brother had a little more trouble controlling his car. Not long after leaving the ramp, Preston steered to the left and veered into a hay bale.

It was the first “crash” of the day, but no one was injured, the cars weren’t damaged and the two siblings were eager to continue racing Sunday afternoon in the 11th annual Seymour DARE Soap Box Derby.

The racing lanes were set up on the stretch of West Second Street in front of American Legion Post 89.

“It’s fun riding in them,” Tinslee said of the cars.

This was the first year for her to be eligible to race.

For each heat she was entered in, Tinslee had quite the pit crew and cheering block made up of her three big brothers, Presten, Skylen, 8, and Brayden, 13.

“You’ve got this, Tinslee,” they told her as they helped her get into her car.

And after each race, they were there to congratulate her, even if she didn’t win.

It’s that kind of support for each other and good sportsmanship organizers of the race said they see every year from participants.

Although deemed a fundraiser for the Seymour Police Department’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program for youth, the event is more about bringing kids and adults together for an afternoon of good family-friendly fun than raising a lot of money, said DARE Officer Tim Toborg.

“This is what it’s all about,” Toborg said of the excitement and enthusiasm of the kids racing and the adults cheering them on. “This is what we need more of.”

Toborg has helped organize the derby in past years but this year left the bulk of the planning up to police department employees Stephanie Newcomb and Trey Berry.

“Attendance was down, and it wasn’t easy doing all the advertising, so they’ve taken it over and revived it,” Toborg said.

This year, there were more than 30 drivers.

Besides Seymour police officers, several high school-aged DARE Role Models volunteered, too, helping kids stop their cars at the end of the race before running into hay bales.

Not one to shy away from the competition, Toborg made sure to get in a couple of races himself, driving a black and white zebra print car.

Although the police department encourages families to build cars together, Toborg said sometimes that’s not possible, so several cars have been built and donated to the program for anyone to use.

Cars have to be gravity-powered and equipped with steering and brakes, but they cannot have pedals or use engines or batteries.

This year’s race featured two new cars that were built with the idea of getting more young girls interested in racing.

Built by longtime DARE Soap Box Derby supporter Shawn Mahoney, an employee of Seymour Community School Corp., one car was decorated in a mermaid theme with shiny silver, pink, iridescent aluminum foil “scales” and seashells.

Zoe Wischmeier, 7, of Seymour, was the first to try out the car and said it may not have been the fastest car, but it was the prettiest.

“I didn’t win, but it was fun,” she said. “I think I pulled the brakes too soon.”

Another new car was the bright pink Girls Inc. car. Painted on the side was the club’s motto of “Strong, Smart and Bold.”

Wearing a unicorn helmet, Maeleigh Banister, 8, of Seymour held up to those words, winning several heats and coming in fourth overall.

Both girls said it was their first time ever racing in the derby.

The only bad part?

“The sweaty helmet,” Banister said.

It also was 6-year-old Madison Findley’s first time racing.

She even got to compete against Toborg in a grudge match, which she won.

The two were having more fun heckling each other about it than anything else.

“There was no way he was going to beat me,” she said.

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Winners in the 11th annual Seymour DARE Soap Box Derby

Ages 5-8

1st-Brodey Sawyer;2nd-Presten Schulz;3rd-Tinslee Schulz


1st-Skylen Schulz;2nd-Blayke Chase;3rd-William Mahoney


1st-Brayden Schulz;2nd-Aiden Ernstes

18 and over

1st-Glenn Peters;2nd-Bill Abbott