Skilled Hands Make Toy Cars for Young Patients

Joshua DeHaan picked up a toy car and felt its smooth contours with satisfaction. “It feels good to go from a piece of wood to something like this,” he said.

The Northview High School senior put it back in a box of three dozen other brightly colored cars that began as discarded 2-by-4s. Working after school in a woodworking club, Joshua and fellow senior Nicholas Robinson patiently cut, sanded, drilled, glued and painted them into nifty vehicles suitable for a 5-year-old to scoot across the floor.

Once Nicholas finished off another dozen, the students plan to deliver 50 cars to the young patients of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Besides providing children with cool toys, the project also fulfilled a service-learning requirement for their English 12 class.Northview woodworking students make stylish cutting boards and other products

They got the idea from teacher Jeff Vargo’s Woods I class, whose students made about 200 mini cars and gave them to Toys for Tots. For Shelli Caswell’s English class, Joshua and Nicholas put their love of woodworking to charitable use.

“I don’t really like book-learning,” Nicholas said. “I’d rather work with my hands.”

Nicholas studies computer-aided machining at Kent Career Tech Center, while Joshua works at a tool and die business where he’ll have a full-time job upon graduating. “It’s a good job to get into because it’s always going to stay busy,” Joshua said.

Vargo says his classes tie into academic subjects such as economics. His advanced woodworking students form assembly lines to build chairs. “They read about it in their history classes, but in Woods 2 they’re like, ‘Hey, this is how they make cars!'”

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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