Star Mazda Championship Driver Ryan Justice
visits children at Stanford University's Lucile
Salter Packard Children's Hospital.
Racing for Kids Helping Sick Children
Founded in 1989 at Children's Hospital of
Michigan, Racing For Kids® is designed to use
the increasing popularity of motorsports to bring
public attention and funding to the health care
needs of children. The hospital visits form the
heart of the program. Each Racing For Kids®
driver and rider visits children in Children's
Hospitals where they race. They spend time with
each sick youngster answering questions about their
sport, handing out the distinctive Racing For
Kids®/Aventis hats and signing autographs.
Racing For Kids® representatives have
visited with more than 12,000 young patients in
over 180 hospitals in the United States, Canada,
and Australia. In addition, over $2.5 million has
been raised through donations and specific fund
raising events for children's hospitals across the
93 Kercheval, Suite 4, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
48236 or 313.882.3403 or 313.882.2193 fax
Scheuldes not updated since 03/31/05. Any plans for
Roger Yasukawas initial attempt to coax a
smile from 6-year-old Jessica Potter is
unsuccessful. Undaunted, he spies the Wiggles on
the TV in the patients room at Loma Linda
University Childrens Hospital. Ah, another
Will you watch me race on TV this
Sunday? he asks in a soft but direct
The youngster tentatively nods, so Yasukawa
adds, and dont forget to cheer for the
blue No. 24 car. Ill be counting on you
as he signs a poster of himself wearing a bright
blue racing suit.
The childs eyes brighten and a smile
enlivens her pale face. The gentle encouragement
gives her something to look forward to during
another long weekend of convalescence, and a brief
but lively dialogue about Yasukawas colorful
I like my hat very much, Potter said
as she fit it over her blonde locks.
The scene with varying degree of success
is repeated as the IndyCar Series driver and
Robbie Buhl visit several patient rooms at the only
Level I pediatric trauma center in the Inland
Empire region of Southern California. But even if
one smile was returned during the two-hour visit,
both representatives of Racing for Kids will have
History of helping hands
Founded in 1989 at Childrens Hospital of
Michigan by Dr. William Pinsky, a pediatric
cardiologist who visualized the correlation between
his vocation and avocation, the non-profit Racing
for Kids has raised more than $3.5 million to
benefit childrens hospitals around the
Last month, $30,000 secured through fund-raisers
was presented to the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in
New Orleans where Pinsky is executive vice
president and chief academic officerto assist
children and Ochsner employees devastated by
Hurricane Katrina. Last week, more than $6,000 was
raised during a visit to the Humana corporate
headquarters in Louisville to benefit the
citys Kosair Childrens Hospital.
Beyond financial gifts, hospital visits in every
IndyCar Series race market also are forums to use
the popularity of motorsports to direct public
attention to the health care needs of children.
Part of what we do is an educational
process that we need to improve our child health
care in this country, said J. Patrick Wright,
the groups executive director who introduced
Pinsky to Buhl more than 15 years ago. We
offer the hospital the opportunity to work with us
to generate media attention around the big event in
town that weekend, which of course is the IndyCar
Series. Our goal is to make people think about the
There also are immediate benefits for the
patients, some of whom face an uncertain future.
Buhl, co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and
a former IndyCar Series-winning driver, and
Yasukawa disperse autographed Racing for Kids hats
and posters in patient rooms or playrooms.
Ambulatory patients are taken outside to see, touch
and sit in the Racing for Kids show car.
The attending physicians tell us that
visits like these are a very important part of a
childs recovery therapy, Wright said.
That really is the heart of the program
when we go into the hospital
History of service
Wright saw that Buhls easygoing
personality and magnetism would dovetail with
Pinskys outreach plans. It didnt take
long for Buhl, whose great-great grandfather Hiram
Walker in 1896 donated the building that took
Childrens Hospital in Detroit from a series
of rented houses and barns to an admirable
facility, to accept the off-track
Hes been a pillar of the program from day
The purpose of the visits from my
standpoint is to make the kids day a little
bit better, said Buhl, who has by
conservative estimates touched the lives of more
than 15,000 patients as the organizations
national spokesman. If they are a race fan or
not, it doesnt matter. You give them a hat,
break up the monotony of their day, and its
an important part of their recovery.
Its also has been an important part of
Buhls event weekend, lending perspective in
the occasionally insular sport.
As a driver, when you have a bad day at
the racetrack the selfish side of it
these visits give you a great perspective on how
lucky we are to do what we do at the
racetrack, said Buhl, who hung up his
firesuit in 2004.
On a grander scale, we want to raise the
awareness level of the health care needs for kids
and the hospitals. Thats the
Wright relays a story about Racing for
Kids first visit to Daoi Hospital in Tokyo,
which began with hospital officials educating Buhl
about Japanese culture and what to expect from the
They said that Japanese culture is such
that the kids will be very quiet and respectful,
but dont think they arent interested
and dont be offended, Wright recalled
of the 2003 visit. So Robbie walked into the
playroom with his racing suit on, sits on his
helmet and says Konechiwa, and they
replied Konechiwa (an informal hello)
and it took off from there. It was as animated a
visit as Ive ever seen.
Robbie is the prototypical personality;
hes very easy with kids from the very first
visit. He puts the kids in a comfortable position
and then its a very lively
The next year, he was joined in the playroom by
sumo wrestlers in their colorful robes, who quickly
and easily hoisted the svelte Buhl above their
heads. Like the program itself, it was an uplifting
The reaction you get from one nurse or one
parent who says, We havent seen them
smile or respond to somebody is
wonderful, Buhl said. Just to hear that
youve made a difference in that one
persons day at that hospital is worth
Another perspective altered
Yasukawa has been a quick study during his
association with Racing for Kids. The 28-year-old
bachelor spent part of his youth in Japan, studied
at the American School in Milan, Italy, and lives
in California. But he initially was
uncomfortableunsure how to act and what to
say in the presence of sick or injured children.
The emotional anguish was somewhat
He quickly found the secret: be yourself.
Its certainly changed my perspective
on life, Yasukawa said. We do this
before every race and every hospital is different,
and obviously you see different kids every time.
Its just little things that really amaze me
like us wearing a blue shirt instead of white shirt
so they dont think were doctors and get
Not only the kids, the parents of kids who
have been here a long time get excited. I never
guessed it would have much impact on the kids and
the parents. Its great. Every stop is special
and the stop in Japan (in April) was even more
special because it was just down the street from my
grandparents house and I had one of my family
members (in the hospital). Its something
special for me.
Its great to see smiling
Media Contacts: John Griffin, IRL, (317)
Tom Savage, IRL, (317) 492-6566, email@example.com
World Wide Web: www.indycar.com
Pecorari wins Racing For Kids® /Star
Robbie Pecorari won this years Racing for
Kids®/ Star Mazda Pro Series Driver Performance
Award. The award goes to the top performing Racing
For Kids® racer in the Star Mazda Series races
at Road Atlanta and Mazda Raceway tracks.
Pecorari, from Andersen Walko Racing, edged out
teammate Graham Rahal, 34-32, in the final point
standings to take the award. James Hinchcliffe
placed third with 31 points and Star Mazda 2005
(season) Champion Raphael Matos took fourth place
with 29 points.
With the award Pecorari wins $2000 -- $1,000
going to him personally and and $1,000 going to his
favorite childrens hospital.
Racing For Kids®, founded in 1989 in
Detroit, is an international charity dedicated to
using motorsports to focus public attention and
funding on the health care needs of children and
the institutions that care for them.
As part of the program, Racing For Kids ®
drivers visit sick children in childrens
hospitals wherever they race. These driver
celebrity visits are an important part of each
childs recovery therapy.
The Racing for Kids®/ Star Mazda Pro Series
Driver Performance Award is given to the driver who
earns the most points from the aforementioned two
races: Sept 30 at Road Atlanta and Oct. 15 at Mazda
Raceway (Monterey, CA).
For those two races, points were awarded on a
sliding scale for first to 15th place finishers.
Winners received 20 points, second place 18 with
two point intervals to sixth place where the
intervals declined by one point. A 15th place
finish received one point.
Pecorari took the award when he won the Road
Atlanta race and finished third in the Mazda
Raceway event. Rahal took second in both races.
Hinchcliffe won the Mazda Raceway event, but took
fifth at Road Atlanta. Pecorari and Hinchcliffe
also won $1000 each for their race wins, receiving
$500 of that personally with $500 going to the
Childrens Health Care of Atlanta (formerly
Scottish Rite) and Lucile Salter Packard
Childrens Hospital in Palo Alto, CA.
11/23/2005 - www.racingforkids.org/fastlanenews.asp?ID=0
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