The (Detroit) Red Wing Play Zone in the lobby of DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan was abuzz of activity Thursday as IZOD IndyCar Star Driver Oriol Servia stopped by the midtown Detroit facility where Racing For Kids was founded in 1989.
In two hours, the affable Spaniard, who finished a strong 4th in Sunday’s Indy 500, visited with more than 100 youngsters and their siblings. He joke with the kids, bounced little babies on his knee, posed for pictures and made sure every child had an autographed Racing For Kids baseball cap and coloring book
From the Play Zone, Servia meandered outside to the hospital’s sun splashed courtyard where two IZOD IndyCars Series show cars awaited. The kids took turns sitting in the cars, gripping the steering wheel and the imagining they were piloting the sleek vehicles on the nearby Belle Isle road course.
This was a special visit for Racing For Kids as it returned to the hospital where then Head of Pediatric Cardiology, Dr. Bill Pinsky, founded the charity in 1989.
No one appeared to be having more fun than the brothers Carden, Wade, age 3, and Wyatt, age 4. of Dearborn Heights. Parents, Tellah Simon and Timothy Carden, said it was a joy to see their sons excited and enjoying their day.
As the tens of kids milled around, Olivia Grigsby, age 4, of Lincoln Park, sat patiently on her mom Mandy’s lap before wrapping a blanket around her shoulders for the trek outside where the temperature was in the low 60s.
The youngest race fan Servia visited was 4-month-old Marcell Martin, Jr. of Detroit who spent most of the time in his mother Natasha LeFlore’s arms. Not far behind in age was 5-month-old Paris Mitchell, also of Detroit, who clung to Mom, TiaLisha Brown, with brother, Davion Brown, age 11, watching on.
Special guests accompanying Servia were Marc Koretzky, IZOD Indy Car Series Chief Operating Officer, and Robbie Buhl, co owner of the Spanish racer’s team, Panther Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Polly Noonan, of Humana, Inc, handed out hats and other memorabilia, while Debby Wright, Racing For Kids’ Event Manager, took pictures for the charity’s website.
As the visit wound down one thing was clear: any youngster who did not know Oriol before Thursday morning was now an avid fan eager to watch the ABC telecast of Sunday’s Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix.