Papis reflects on friends and family

Papis Gives Thanksgiving For Friends, Family November is, without a doubt, a time to give thanks and count blessings. The Holiday Season is a time to spend with family and friends and remember those that have been close to them. That's exactly...

Papis Gives Thanksgiving For Friends, Family

November is, without a doubt, a time to give thanks and count blessings. The Holiday Season is a time to spend with family and friends and remember those that have been close to them. That's exactly what 2004 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 co-champion Max Papis did during the November Test Days at Daytona International Speedway.

Dressed in street clothes, Papis did not take part in the two-day session, looking over the Krohn Racing Pontiac Rileys he piloted during the 2007 season and spending time with friends and fellow drivers.

Also during this time of Thanksgiving, Papis offered thanks and reflection on two important people in his life. He remembered a special presentation from a June race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he and former Krohn Racing teammate Colin Braun finished the Daytona Prototype race in third.

Though podium finishes are always special, that weekend became a memorable one for a completely different weekend. Off the track, Papis hosted a "celebration of life," dedicated to two people very special to Papis that he had lost in the last year.

Papis has always had a passion for children, as well as family. During one of many races at Mid-Ohio over his very successful career, Papis met an 8-year-old race fan named Mason Ream from nearby Shelby, Ohio, who had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma - an incurable and aggressive form of cancer. Instantly, Papis took interest in Mason, and the young north-central Ohioan and the fast-driving Italian quickly became friends. The two spoke regularly, with Papis many times calling the young boy on the phone to check on his progress.

Sadly, Mason lost his battle with cancer last year at the age of 12. Despite being in Le Mans, France for an important test session, Papis and his wife Tatiana made the arrangements to fly back to the U.S. and attended the funeral to say good bye to their friend. Papis even spoke during the service, and comforted four of Mason's closest young friends.

Papis recalls a time when Mason was in the late stages of cancer.

"He said, 'Guys, I don't have a lot of time left,'" Papis said. "'You will need to get along without me.' He's in a better place now."

However, there would be no forgetting Mason, nor Papis' father, Cesare, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last year. Cesare Papis fought cancer courageously as well, and battled long enough to see his grandson, Marco, be born and baptized.

In remembrance, Max and Tatiana made shirts to commemorate those lives. They read "Max + Cesare + Mason Love for Life." Many of Mason's friends showed up, and the children enjoyed a picnic lunch before remembering Mason.

Papis knows this won't be the last time he'll spend working with children with cancer, as he hopes to start his own charity in the future.

"I have always had a passion for children," Papis said. "They are pure. We want to continue helping children like Mason and be there for them."

-credit: mpr

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Series GRANDAM