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Children and exotic car owners get their wishes

Apparently, 210 km/h isn't fast enough for my back-seat driving instructor: 7-year-old Nick Rodd of Curtis, Ont.

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BOWMANVILLE, Ont.- While piloting the 2007 Chrysler 300C SRT8 down the back straight of Mosport’s four-kilometre, 10-turn road course, “Go faster! Faster! Faster!” was the call from the back seat.

Apparently, 210 km/h isn’t fast enough for my back-seat driving instructor: 7-year-old Nick Rodd of Curtis, Ont.

Nick was one of about 75 kids getting their wishes granted to ride in a fast car on a racetrack. It was all part of last weekend’s annual race day for the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada.

For 15 years, local motorsport enthusiasts Dave Lacey and Jeff Pabst of Doncaster Racing, Toronto, have organized the non-profit event for the foundation.

Lacey wanted to make it clear that a child doesn’t have to be terminally ill.

“If there’s one message I want to get out there, it’s that (this wish) doesn’t have to be a `last hurrah’ for your child,” explained Lacey, who, after years of involvement with Children’s Wish, now sits on the national volunteer board.

“There’s an accredited list of illnesses and conditions that qualify for wish granting,” Lacey said.

One can simply ask a family doctor, health or social worker.

“Quite honestly, our biggest challenge is getting modest parents to make the request in the first place.”

Trips to Disney World are the foundation’s most requested list.

But “wishes” can range from medical insurance, airline tickets, tickets to a hockey game, accommodations at a resort, or even transportation costs (like a rental car) to get to a local event. Like this year’s race day.

Lacey, a financial industry executive, and Pabst, a who runs the body and tuning shop of a local Porsche dealership, have provided an opportunity for hundreds of children with high-risk, life-threatening illnesses to experience the thrill of what it’s like to ride around a race track.

They started by reaching out to their friends in the motorsport community.

Mosport Park donates the track for the day. From a safety standpoint, the event is run like a fully sanctioned, motorsport event.

This means dozens of track marshals, pit lane workers, and fire and ambulance personnel also donate their time.

This year, 40 fellow driving enthusiasts made their cars, tires, and brake pads available (not to mention, topping-up with $3/litre 100 octane racing fuel).

There was also a mandatory donation of $125 per car and a “Turbo Charge” of $1 for every one horsepower under the hood of one’s car.

All of the volunteer drivers are required to have an active racing licence, and need to have documented experience of lap time at the Mosport track.

The race day began with a brief orientation of the day’s events, and overview of important track safety information. Then, after patiently waiting, the kids got the chance to pick their rides.

Like a lineup at Disney World, the kids queued up beside the pit wall. Only, this roller coaster involved strapping into various production and racing cars.

The fund-raising continued in the afternoon when anyone could purchase two laps around the circuit for a $25 contribution.

Including the $25,000 raised at last weekend’s event, Lacey and Pabst have raised more than $325,000 for Children’s Wish over the years.

This year’s lineup of rides included everything from full-on race cars to exotic Ferraris and Porches to stock sedans – like yours truly’s 300C SRT8, donated for the day by Chrysler Canada.

Admittedly, not as exciting as an 2003 Ferrari 360 Spyder, the big Chrysler was definitely popular for parents who wanted to ride along with their children. And the howl of the 420 hp Hemi V8 on the straightaways was enough to elicit a few “Awesomes!”

Where motorsport can sometimes be a singularly selfish act, sharing the thrill of speed in such a safe environment can be quite rewarding.

Local touring car racers, Corey and Jesse Bradburn, got almost as big a thrill as some of their young passengers.

“Being here for the kids has been a great way to give something back and to help out,” said Corey, while showing some children the insides of his Honda CR-X race car.

If you’re a motorsport enthusiast and have a car you think a kid would love to share a thrilling ride with, why not donate your time for next year’s race day?

That’s as long as you’re prepared for some enthusiastic instruction from the backseat.

For more information on how you can help, go to www.childrenswish.ca

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