At this year’s Pearl River Soapbox Derby, John Buonadonna spoke to a man and found out that he had participated in the race more than 50 years ago.
The man was from United Hospice of Rockland, Buonadonna said, and requested that he be allowed to go out and watch the race. Buonadonna said the man talked about building the car with his father and racing it, and how watching the race brought back those memories.
“I like the soapbox derby race because it’s something that you remember forever,” Buonadonna said. “If you go see Santa Claus at the mall, you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. That’s the kind of thing you forget as an adult. But in the race, when you go over that hill, you remember it forever.”
On July 1st, Buonadonna took over as president of the Rotary Club of Pearl River. He’s been involved with the Rotary for 14 years and has worked annually on the derby nearly as long, since the Rotary revived the race in 2000.
Buonadonna said he likes being a part of the Rotary because they help out people in the community, as well as help create lasting memories for people through events like the Soapbox Derby.
“It takes probably 300 hours or so in all working on the Soapbox Derby, but I love it,” he said. “Even with the added responsibilities of being president this year, I still hope to work on the derby.”
Another event Buonadonna said he likes working on is the Share Christmas & The Holidays event. The Rotary has organized the event for the past 27 years, bringing Santa and other family-friendly characters, along with performers, to Braunsdorf Park in Pearl River.
“There are just hundreds and hundreds of kids standing there, and there’s this little pathway you have to drive through to bring the characters in,” he said. “It’s just a really nice feeling to see that kind of stuff, and see how happy everyone is.”
Buonadonna, who owns a landscaping business, said he and his workers built a memorial to Paula Bohovesky at Pearl River High School in the spring. Bohovesky was 16 years old when she was attacked and killed on Oct. 28, 1980 while walking home from her part-time job at the Pearl River Public Library.
Additionally, Buonadonna said he hopes the Rotary can work with some outside organizations more this year to help raise money for them. While the Rotary is still in the planning stage for the upcoming year, Buonadonna said two groups he’d like to help out are the Hospice and Pearl River Little League.
“We’re trying to accomplish a lot of big things,” he said. “I’d like to do a lot of fundraising.”