Collin McNaught, 11, describes himself as “a huge racing fan.” So it was no surprise that he recognized Ryan Hunter-Ray immediately as he moved outside in his wheelchair through the front doors of a busy Children’s Hospital of Boston.
The Tewksbury, MA native, who had recent heart surgery, smiled appreciatively as Hunter-Reay autographed a hero card and posed for pictures with him. Then he engaged the IZOD IndyCar Series star in a detailed discussion about open-wheeled racing and the 2011 season.
“I knew I’d like you,” laughed an impressed Hunter-Reay. For McNaught, the feeling was mutual. “He’s my favorite driver, “ he nodded as he moved away from the IndyCar show car the league had provided and returned to his wheelchair.
For 75 hospitalized youngsters, Hunter-Reay’s Wednesday, August 10th Racing For Kids® visit was a very special occasion indeed. Moving from their beds and gathering outside Children’s Hospital in the warm Boston sun, they all admitted they had never been this close to an Indy Car or IndyCar driver for that matter.
Hunter-Reay, a Racing For Kids veteran, will drive the yellow #28 DHL Andretti Autosport entry in this weekend’s race at Loudon, NH as IndyCar returns to New Hampshire after a nearly decade and a half absence.
Amid a burgeoning crowd of patients, parents, siblings and hospital staff, Traycie Corner, 10, of Wareham, MA made her way to the show car then worked into the driver’s seat and posed with Hunter-Reay for pictures taken by a photographer from the Boston Herald. Her dad, Chris beamed from afar.
Justin Woo, 12, and his dad, Derek, of Walpole, MA were surprised to learn the 235 mph top speed an IndyCar can hit, while Sudbury, MA’s Brendan Meehan, age 11, said he’d be glued to the TV Sunday to see Hunter-Reay race.
Allison Lundy, 9, of Hopkinton, MA whispered her appreciation and lingered a longtime outside to share in the excitement.
Toddlers like Theo Maslan, 4, of nearby Cambridge, MA, and teens alike formed a constant parade of patients to greet Hunter-Reay who is fresh off a season’s best Third Place finish last weekend at Mid-Ohio.
But it wasn’t just a day for kids and Massachusetts residents. Four of Boston’s Finest (policemen) took their turns with the IndyCar star racer and then gave the show car a thorough going over. “Very impressive” one officer offered about the afternoon event before he and his cohorts posed for a “thumbs up” photo with a half dozen young patients and Hunter-Reay.
The “I Came The Longest Distance” Award went to Sonoma, CA’s Logan Ebert, 15, and his Mom, Maralee, who has raced vintage cars. They told Hunter-Reay they’d be back home in a couple of weeks and looked forward to seeing him race at Infineon.
After an hour outside, Hunter-Reay moved inside Children’s of Boston to make bed-to-bed visits to youngsters who were confined to their rooms. Nearly an hour later with a smile and a big wave, he departed Children’s Boston leaving behind a trail of smiles, an exceedingly happy group of parents and hospital staff, and a good deal of treasured autographed memorabilia.
Racing For Kids®