Racing with a Greater Purpose Team Seattle Races Towards $2 Million Donation Mark DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 4, 2005) -- The racers set to compete in this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona do so for a variety of reasons: some for the glory and...
Racing with a Greater Purpose
Team Seattle Races Towards $2 Million Donation Mark
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 4, 2005) -- The racers set to compete in this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona do so for a variety of reasons: some for the glory and some for the fun. But the eight members of Team Seattle race with a greater purpose. They race for the children.
Team Seattle is in its ninth year of raising funds for Seattle Children's Hospital. Each year the team has collected pledges for donations for each lap the team completes during the Rolex 24 At Daytona. To date, more than $1.6 million has been raised for the hospital, and the team will not think about stopping until it can fulfill its $2.5 million commitment. Those funds will go towards the Kami Renee Sutton Pediatric Cardiac ICU, which will be the first and only designated cardiac ICU in the pediatric healthcare community in the U.S.
Kami has been part of the inspiration for the team over the past eight years. She was a patient at Children's Hospital when Team Seattle began its efforts, and has traveled to every Rolex 24 At Daytona to support the team. Although she was only a little girl when Team Seattle was established, today she is a young teenage woman who continues to support her team.
But this year Kami is not the only patient on hand for the race. Six-month-old Elaina Bosler is also here with her parents, who were so appreciative to the hospital after saving Elaina's life when she was only a few weeks old that they made a substantial commit to Team Seattle in support of the hospital. This year's race is dedicated to Elaina, and her name can be found on the team's car, driver suits, banners and posters.
"We want Elaina to look back at the photographs of this weekend and see all her family did to support the hospital that saved her," said Team Seattle founder and driver Don Kitch Jr.
While donations continue to come in for this year's race, as of Friday morning the team had $510 pledged for each lap of the race, more than any of the previous years. If the team is able to complete 700 laps, a reasonable number for the 24-hour race, it would mean more than $350,000 for Seattle Children's Hospital.
Kitch has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. "Our absolute dream was to get to $500 a lap," he said. "To get over that already is simply amazing."
While Kami and Elaina are only two patients, they represent a large group of children back in Seattle that will be riveted to SPEED Channel this weekend.
"That's our other goal, to give them one day when they can divorce themselves from what they're going through," explained Kitch. "It's a big deal. They truly believe they are here with us."
While not all the patients can be here with them, a large contingent from Seattle has joined the team in Daytona. Approximately 100 sponsors and supporters of Team Seattle have arrived over the past few days for this weekend's race.J
Over the past eight years, the team has been successful in not only raising money, but also in competing on the track, winning its class in the 2002 race. But any of the drivers will tell you, it's not a place in victory lane they are racing for.
"I don't care if we are dead last at noon on Sunday, we're still going to win," said Kitch. "When I was really active in driving and racing, I only saw one way to win. It was the first car under the checkered. Everyone else was just the first loser. But now I've learned there are lots of ways to win.
"Are we going to win GT, who knows? A lot of stuff happens in 24 hours. Are the kids going to win? Sure. That hospital can do a lot with $350,000."
The drivers of the Team Seattle race cars are not only lending their heart and time to the cause, but also opening their wallets as well. Each driver of a Team Seattle race car is responsible for funding one-fourth of that car's race budget.
"We don't use one dime of that lapping money to race these cars," said Kitch.
The drivers giving so much to this year's effort are: Don Kitch Jr., Don Gagne, Chris Pallis and Don Pickering in the No. 80 Porsche GT3 Cup, and Mae Van Wijk, David Murry, Dave Gaylord and Rod Emory in the No. 81 Porsche GT3 Cup.
Over the years, Team Seattle has partnered with several different teams to race several different types of cars in several different classes. This year, they joined Synergy Racing, a place they hope to stay for a while.
"Life is good here with Synergy," Kitch remarked. "It's very good here. And we'll finish this project up here. We made a $2.5 million commitment to the hospital, which is going to take a few more years to satisfy. And I hope we do so here with Synergy."
The Rolex 24 At Daytona is the most prestigious sports car race in North America, drawing top-name drivers from around the world and every racing discipline, including the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, the IRL IndyCar Series and Formula One.
SPEED Channel will broadcast more than 14 hours of the historic 24-hour race live from Daytona, with coverage kicking off at noon on Saturday, Feb. 5 and continuing through the first seven hours of the race. After a one-hour break, the live broadcast will resume at 8 p.m. and continue until 11 p.m. SPEED will return to the action at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 6, running through the checkered flag and victory lane celebration.
Live timing and scoring from the race will be available throughout the entire 24 hours online at www.grandamerican.com. Additional information on the Rolex 24 At Daytona, including ticket pricing and special events surrounding the race, is online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.