What better way to help kids than to return to your own childhood?
That’s what several IndyCar drivers, in town for this week’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, did when they ventured south Wednesday to race go-karts in the 11th annual Kart 4 Kids Pro-Am Kart Race at Andersen Race Park in Palmetto.
The race started in 2012 as a way to honor the memory of late IndyCar driver and St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon, who lost his life in a tragic racing accident in 2011. More than a million dollars has been raised for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The funds have been used for everything from life-saving equipment purchases to a Kart 4 Kids Relief Fund that provides support for patients, families, and staff.
“We are so grateful for the support of the drivers, sponsors, spectators and planning committee that make Kart 4 Kids the second-largest community fundraiser for the Foundation,” said Jenine Rabin, executive vice president of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation.
“Each year, the funds raised from this event allow us to purchase several important pieces of equipment necessary to deliver the best care for the toughest pediatric cases.”
A portion of the money raised also will go to the Kart 4 Kids Concussion Initiative at the hospital, which is conducting ground-breaking research on concussions in children.
“It’s a concussion research initiative where we’re doing research not only in the motorsports community, but for all the children that we treat,” said Dr. Patrick Mularoni, director of sports medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Along with event co-chairman and St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bordais, other notable IndyCar drivers, including reigning series champion Alex Palou and six-time IndyCar series champ Scott Dixon, showed off their skills on the track.
“It’s for a great cause,” Dixon said, “and I think the biggest thing to take away from this event is that everybody has fun.”
The drivers also donated memorabilia for an online and live auction. Auction items included signed race-worn helmets, fire suits, shoes and gloves, as well as autographed merchandise.
The IndyCar series kicks off its season this weekend on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg. The green flag will drop Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Chances are, the cars will be going just a little faster than the go-karts.