Michael Andretti warmly greeted little Shaniqua as she shyly approached him for an autographed picture and Racing Far Kids cap.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“Fine “ she demurred and then moved down to drivers, Zack Veach and Blackstock, who drive for Michael’s Andretti Autosport: Zack in the Firestone Indy Lights Series, Shelby in the Mazda Pro Series.
It was a blustery 20-degree Wisconsin Winter morning outside of Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Wednesday (Jan 16). But inside was a much different story as the three warmed the hearts of nearly 100 young patients, their sibs and parents during a one-hour visit.
In town to promote the 2013 Milwaukee IndyFest Indy Car Race, which is being run by Andretti Sports Marketing, the three agreed their trip would not have been complete without a Racing For Kids® visit to the prominent Wisconsin children’s medical center.
Tuesday, Andretti Sports Marketing announced that Racing For Kids & Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin would again be the Official Charities of June 14-15 Milwaukee IndyFest.
A serpentine line of children many with IVs, others in wheel chairs waited patiently as they worked their way up to the three drivers seated on the hospital’s 2nd Floor Mezzanine.
A definite buzz in the air enveloped the event and many kids with their families stayed on asking detailed questions about this year’s race, IndyCars and racecar speeds in a mini press conference of sorts.
One young man from Green Bay, WI was reluctant to approach the drivers so his parents went instead, bringing back autographed treasures and telling him “your Grandpa will so excited to know you got Michael Andretti’s autograph.”
Two other youngsters, boy and a girl, hurried through the line on their way to surgery in what was surely a welcome respite from pre-surgery anxiety.
With a good part of the hospital census in isolation because of the prevalent flu bug, the visit seemed over all to quickly although the smiles and laughter no doubt lasted well into the afternoon. But the trio made sure to sign a couple of dozens hats and hero cards for those patients they could not see.
Zack and Shelby made six bed-to-bed stops to wrap up their stay. Michael, with Milwaukee IndyFest Managing Director, Kevin Healy, hurried off to a Madison, WI meeting with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, but not before telling his new fans he hoped he’d see them in June at the Milwaukee Mile for Milwaukee IndyFest 2013.
And thus the Racing For Kids® 2013 season of hospital visits was off to a fast start. Next stop, All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL on Thursday, March 21.