IRL: Schmidt earns special award

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2000 - Indy Racing personality Sam Schmidt received the Special Achievement Award from Gateway to a Cure for his work to find a cure for paralysis during the organization's gala dinner Nov. 19 in St....

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2000 - Indy Racing personality Sam Schmidt received the Special Achievement Award from Gateway to a Cure for his work to find a cure for paralysis during the organization's gala dinner Nov. 19 in St. Louis. Schmidt was paralyzed from the shoulders down in an Indy Racing testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway in January 2000. He did extensive rehabilitation work at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Since his injury, Schmidt has formed the Sam Schmidt Foundation to promote awareness of spinal cord injuries and help raise funding for research of such injuries and paralysis. "Frankly, I didn't really feel like I had done anything," Schmidt said during his acceptance speech at the dinner. "I was in shock because I have only been injured 10 months, and I feel this award would be more suited for someone who had been working on spinal cord funding and research for a long period of time. "I am at a little bit of a loss because now I feel I need to live up to the award. I was inspired by the award because now I feel like I have to go out and do something to deserve it. People, in general, seem fairly shocked that I have adapted to the situation, and that I have overcome such a severe injury in such a short amount of time physically. But they are more impressed with the fact that I have been able to adapt really quickly to both being back at home maintaining the physical therapy and diving into the Sam Schmidt Foundation." Schmidt, from Las Vegas, received a crystal trophy from Indy Racing team owner, Fred Treadway, and Pat Rummerfield, a former quadriplegic who has recovered to set a world land speed record for battery-powered vehicles. Actor Christopher Reeve, who became a quadriplegic in an equestrian accident, was the keynote speaker before a crowd of approximately 700. "I met Christopher Reeve in passing in the hallway," Schmidt said. "Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. I got some information from him about the people in his organization, and that will help me with my organization and future strategy. "His speech was really inspiring. He talked about several topics from the current state of spinal cord research, to private and corporate fundraising to political ramifications. That was the first time I have heard him speak in person. It was inspirational." All funds raised during the event will be donated to Washington University School of Medicine for research in spinal cord regeneration.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sam Schmidt