IZOD IndyCar Series star racers, Mike Conway and Graham Rahal, led an entertaining five driver, 90 minute stop at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (CHW) Thursday, June 14. The command performance kicked off the 2012 Milwaukee IndyFest which features Racing For Kids® as The Official Charity in partnership with CHW, the highly regarded Milwaukee based hospital.
Joining Conway (AJ Foyt Enterprises) and Rahal (Chip Ganassi Racing) were fast rising Indy Lights racers, Mike Larrison (Belardi Auto Racing), Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) and Sebastian Saavedra (Andretti Autosport) in what was the largest driver turnout in 23 years of Racing For Kids hospital visits. In a historic note, Racing For Kids’ very first hospital visit was to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in June of 1990
A parade of wide-eyed young patients created a festive atmosphere and a buzz around the IndyCar show car glistening in the sun in a parking lot in front of the hospital. The drivers helped patients, many with I-V poles and others with arm and leg casts, in and out of the show car. They then patiently posed for pictures and made sure each child had an autographed hero card.
At times it was hard to tell who were happier: the young kids jumping out of the show car, temporarily oblivious to their infirmities and medical attachments, or their parents, many joy struck to see their kids laughing amid a difficult hospital stay.
Early on, Mike Conway, a veritable veteran of visits to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin visits, pealed off from the group with Child Life Director Stephanie Clayton to spend precious time with a little boy, who was headed into surgery.
Later Rahal, who has family ties to Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital, led a contingent on bedside visits to several youngsters confined to their rooms.
When the conversation turned to racing, Saavedra was anxious to talk about experiencing his first Indy 500 run last month. Munoz explained that Milwaukee Mile was his 1st short track oval, while Larrison said he started racing at age 4 and grew up in the shadow on The Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Recording the event were local TV outlets: FOX 6 and CBS 58, whose presence added a perfect touch of media glamour to the glee experienced by the young patients most of them outside in their hospital gowns.
Friday in partnership with Andretti Autosport, Racing For Kids will host a group of 30 CHW hospital out patients and their families in a “Day At The Track”, which will include lunch, driver introductions, practice and qualifying at the famed Milwaukee Mile.