Drivers Pay Visit to Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago

Story and Photos by: John DagysIt’s not often that a child in a hospital can put a smile on his or her face, but today, drivers from the American Le Mans Series helped do just that. B-K Motorsports’ Ben Devlin and Gerardo Bonilla as well as Luis Diaz from Lowe’s Fernandez Racing made a stop to Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago, bringing the excitement of auto racing home to many youngsters.

Devlin, Bonilla and Diaz signed autographs and posed for pictures in front of the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Lola Acura show car on display. The trio also toured the facility, going room-to-room visiting patients who were unable to leave their bed. Their stop Wednesday was made prior to heading to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for this weekend’s Generac 500 presented by Time Warner Cable at Road America.

photo by: John Dagys“It’s very special as we’re so fortunate in the racing world that we just take all this for granted,” Devlin said. “All the places we see, the tracks, the cars, the everything we do are people’s dreams all the time. So to take just an hour out of a day and come and do this is no trouble for us at all. It’s great to see the smiles and give them something to hope for and push forward. It’s so nice that we can share and help spread our stories that we take for granted every day. It’s so nice to see them smiling that gives them a bit of a motivation. We really enjoy doing it.”

Devlin and Bonilla also handed out blue bracelets to patients with the words “The will to never give up” inscribed on them. Devlin said Mazda’s motto has helped him and the B-K Motorsports team get through rough weekends at the track but still remember the big picture in life. With the spreading of the bracelets, he hopes the children can have the same attitude as they battle through struggles of their own.

photo by: John Dagys“Anytime we have an opportunity to come to a children’s hospital is an opportunity for us to give back,” Bonilla said. “Some of the children we see don’t get the opportunity to come to the tracks. They’re here at the hospital for medical reasons. But it’s great for us to bring some cheer into the hospital because it’s a sterile environment and they need some stimulation and friends to come see them. Race car drivers coming over is always a big surprise and thrill for them. I’m glad we can be a part of that.”

Diaz and his No. 15 Lowe’s Fernandez Racing show car was one of the hits of the event, as the likable Mexican driver gave children the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the LMP2 car. He was very excited to be part of an event like this, as it gives drivers even more reason to win on the track.

photo by: John Dagys“This is a very special week for us,” Diaz said. “We have the chance to come and be around these great kids that are truly angels. And to be around them before an important race is very energizing. When we finish these kinds of events, we come to the track even more motivated to do well because we want to give these kids something to cheer for. I’m very happy to be at these kind of events.”

Shriners Hospitals for Children is a one-of-a-kind international health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs. Children up to age 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment at no charge - regardless of financial need.

photo by: John DagysThis visit was in conjunction with the Austin Hatcher Foundation, the Series’ official charity. Formed by SPEED World Challenge competitor Jim Osborn and his wife Amy Jo, the foundation’s mission centers on children with pediatric cancer. The Osborn’s two-month-old son, “Hatch”, died from a rare form of cancer. They have been helping families of children with pediatric cancer for almost a decade.

The Series will continue to help raise money and awareness through the Austin Hatcher Foundation over the next five years in similar events. Last month, Devlin as well as Jon and Clint Field and Paul Drayson made a stop to a Columbus, Ohio children’s hospital prior to the Mid-Ohio race. In October, the Series will join with Road Atlanta to host the 5th annual Post Petit Le Mans Motorcycle Charity ride and raffle to also benefit the foundation.

A full photo gallery of the event can be found here

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