YOUNG CANCER PATIENT HAS DREAM DAY AT RACES AT TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 24, 2006) -- Powerful medicine can come in many forms. For 12-year-old auto racing fan Nathan Crookston, it took the form of a 120-mph...
YOUNG CANCER PATIENT HAS DREAM DAY AT RACES AT TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 24, 2006) -- Powerful medicine can come in many forms.
For 12-year-old auto racing fan Nathan Crookston, it took the form of a 120-mph ride in a pace car and meeting Champ Car stars Paul Tracy and Mario Dominguez.
Nathan has a rare form of Ewing's Sarcoma, which is the second most common type of bone cancer in children and adolescents. In Nathan's case, however, the cancer was in the muscle of his leg; there are only about 1,000 similar cases per year in the United States. Since April 2005, he has been undergoing three-week treatment cycles - alternating between three and six days of chemotherapy at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles - then two weeks of recovery.
That was all but forgotten - and Nathan's dream of a day at the races came true - April 8 at the 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Thanks to "The Dream Maker" Terry Randal, the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach and Forsythe Championship Racing, Nathan and his family got the "red carpet" treatment all day at the Grand Prix.
He met many of the celebrities competing in the 30th Anniversary Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race, enjoyed VIP access to the racing paddocks and Lifestyle Expo and took two laps around the 1.97-mile race circuit in a pace car at 120 mph.
He also visited behind-the-scenes with Tracy, Dominguez and the entire the Forsythe Racing squad.
"It was really great, I had a lot of fun," said Nathan. "I loved going around the track in the car. It was awesome to see how everything is set up at the track. And I got to meet Paul Tracy!"
"I really enjoyed having Nathan and his family as our guests," said Tracy. "We got to spend some time together and chat for a while. Nathan had a huge smile on his face the whole time, he is a great kid and a huge Champ Car fan! I would really like to thank The Dream Maker and Terry Randal for creating such an unforgettable experience for Nathan, the Forsythe Team and myself."
"He had a blast," said Kymmer Crookston, Nathan's mother. "He didn't know until that day he was going to ride in a pace car. His eyes lit up when he was told about it. The timing was perfect - it was in between his chemo treatments when he was feeling good. It was important for him to have something to look forward to. It was truly an absolutely perfect day, and [Nathan's father Kim] and I had a good time too."
There's even more good news for Nathan: He just finished his year of chemo treatments and is looking forward to having a long, healthy life.
"This was an absolutely top-notch day for Nathan," said Randal. "I'd call it a '10.' We were out there with him for 10 or 11 hours and everybody was so nice and helpful. We like to get kids in the middle of the action as much as we can, and we were able to do that at the Grand Prix. It's a day Nathan will never forget."
Randal, who works at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia, started The Dream Maker after helping a friend's child with a wish ... and it grew from there. The non-profit organization today grants wishes to children who are facing life-threatening illnesses and, in just four years, Randal estimates The Dream Maker has granted about 160 wishes in that time.
"We've never been turned down," said Randal. "We're a small organization that can get children's wishes granted quickly and with a personal touch. We basically do the same thing the Make-A-Wish Foundation does, but we're not competing with them. They do good work and we do good work."