The long awaited return of Racing For Kids to the Hill was all the more thrilling and enjoyable this year because of all the obstacles that needed to be overcome to bring it back for its 15th year! Uncertainty over the pandemic, a fire in our building the week before – we had a lot […]
It was Thursday Morning at Long Beach’s Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital and little patient Clare was not having a good day when the trio of Racing For Kids® drivers approached her in the playroom. She shook her head. “No.” She did not want a Racing For Kids hat; or to see a picture of a race car; or a driver’s autograph.
Sports Car Racing Champion Christine Nielsen slowly sat down next to Clare (not her real name) carefully avoiding her ever- present I-V Pole, while racers Aaron Telitz and Nicolai Elghanayan, in a colorful driver’s suit, took seats across from her at the playroom table.
“Do you want to color Easter egg pictures?” Nielsen asked pushing a coloring book page toward the smile-less little girl.
Clare shook her head “no.” Then after a moment’s reflection changed her mind: “well maybe.” She reached for a blue tip felt coloring pen. The drivers did also.
“We race cars” Nelsen offered. Clare looked up in surprise. Her once sad eyes suddenly open wide.
“You race cars? I thought only boys raced cars.”
“No. Girls race cars too…. And win,” Nielsen countered bringing forth Clare’s first smile of the day.
“Ya! She beat me in our last race,” laughed Telitz with a nod to Nielsen.
Suddenly, an entirely new aura enveloped the playroom as Clare became a veritable chatter box of inquisition:
“What do you get, if you win?”
“Trophies and money,” said Nielsen.
“Do you get sweaty in your car?” “Do you crash?” “Does it hurt?”
For thirty years Racing For Kids® drivers have been putting smiles on the faces of hospitalized children, not only changing dispositions but also cultivating new fan bases. Thursday’s experience at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital was no different with every one of those new smiles priceless.
Nielsen, a Denmark native, currently races the ACURA NSX #57 with Meyer-Shank Racing / Heinricher Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech Endurance Championship. In 2016, she became the first women to win the IMSA WeatherTech Championship and did a repeat in 2017.
Telitz, who raced in the Indy Lights Series in 2018, competes in the 2019 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Lexus AIM Vasser-Sullivan Racing. He hopes to get an IndyCar test later this year.
Elghanayan, of Laguna Beach (CA), will drive the KTM GT4 X-Bow #7 in the Pirelli World Challenge this weekend in Long Beach (CA).
The engaging trio of drivers, who spent nearly two hours at Miller, then left a happy Clare to make several room to room visits before heading to two more playrooms. They answered racing questions, signed autographs, posed for pictures and even engaged patients in a lively racing video game competition with Telitz winning. But the real winners were the youngsters at Miller Hospital where Racing For Kids has been an annual fixture since 1991.
As for Clare, she said she now is a confirmed racing fan. And yes, she did want a Racing For Kids hat and the drivers’ autographs on it.