IPS: IRL: Schmidt, Andretti-Green host "Day at the Races" in Indy

Indy 'Day At The Races' Encourages Locals to Visit IMS Schmidt, Andretti-Green Host Spinal Cord Injured INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Nearly 60 people with spinal cord injuries experienced hope and motorsports Friday at Indianapolis Motor ...

Indy 'Day At The Races' Encourages Locals to Visit IMS
Schmidt, Andretti-Green Host Spinal Cord Injured

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Nearly 60 people with spinal cord injuries experienced hope and motorsports Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the most prestigious IndyCar event, the Indianapolis 500.

Sam Schmidt, a quadriplegic car owner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series who is also running the Meijer/Coca-Cola entry in the Indianapolis 500, hosted Indianapolis-area patients at the speedway. The group from two organizations -- Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana and Hamilton's -- toured the speedway, were guests of Andretti-Green Racing for lunch, and met various drivers, including Sam Schmidt Motorsports drivers Richie Hearn and Travis Gregg. Schmidt and Andretti-Green Racing hosted the program through the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.

"Hope is a big thing no matter what your case in life, and we like the fact Day At The Races gives people hope," said Schmidt. "It's really important for people to see that life continues after a spinal cord injury, and it can continue pretty well, regardless of your circumstances.

"That's what the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation is all about -- continuing to work to help people overcome injuries that today might look overwhelming. There have been tremendous strides, amazing strides, made in treating spinal cord injuries in just the past few years. While that research and work continues, we want all of those affected to know there is hope for the future," Schmidt added.

"Day At The Races" is part of the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation's program to provide a behind-the-scenes look at IndyCar racing for patients suffering from a disabling injury and their families.

"These are the types of things that capture a lot of attention in the Indy car pits and garages," Schmidt said. "Andretti-Green Racing, for example, has really gotten behind our program, especially what we are doing with 'Day At The Races.' They gave us their hospitality tent (Friday), like they have at other races, and put a lunch together for our guests. They were greatly involved in our Gala earlier this week, which is a key fund-raiser for the Foundation, and have been completely supportive of everything we are trying to do."

The goal of the event is to provide a day at the races for individuals who have suffered from a disabling injury and to show people what one man, Schmidt, did when he was rendered quadriplegic. His drive and determination are an inspiration.

Schmidt was a top IndyCar driver until he was paralyzed in a crash at a test, Jan. 6, 2000. He owns Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which fields Infiniti Pro Series cars, and is also the founder of the foundation, which strives to improve the quality of life of paralysis patients and also raise funds for medical research and treatment of spinal cord injuries.

While in the Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Louis, Mo., Schmidt felt he was one of the lucky ones. He had an incredible support system including his faith, family and the entire motorsports community. He also realized he had very good insurance. That's not normally the case for those with spinal cord injuries; rather, insurance is a definitive issue, visits from family and friends become fewer, depression settles in and concerns about future well-being becomes paramount in their minds.

Schmidt vowed he would not forget these lonely patients and companions he had met. He realized in order to solve some of their issues he needed to raise awareness of spinal cord injury and the horrendous impact it has on the patient and family. Funds needed to be raised for medical research to develop cures and effective therapeutic treatments for paralysis and most importantly, people who are newly injured needed psychological support and resources to help them lead productive lives. With these tools, rather than having lives shattered, families would learn coping mechanisms and find the courage to keep the family intact. Thus, with the help of several of his closest friends, the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation was formed.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports is also a means of promoting and publicizing the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. The Foundation was created by Schmidt to help individuals overcome spinal cord injuries and other neurological disorders. Schmidt is currently recovering from serious upper spinal cord injuries suffered in a testing accident on January 6, 2000 while practicing for the season-opening Indy Racing League event at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. Further information is available at www.samschmidt.org or (317) 236-9999.

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS