Schmidt Showing Hope Through Motorsports

Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation Spearheads

'Day At Races' For Phoenix-Area Spinal Cord Injured

March 15, 2005

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Offering a behind the scenes look at the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and the Indy Racing League, three Phoenix-area organizations will bring patients to Phoenix International Speedway Friday for a "Day At The Races" program, headed by the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF) and Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

Approximately 75 people from Joni and Friends, the Arizona Spinal Cord Association and Good Samaritan Rehabilitation Hospital will spend the day at the speedway, meeting drivers, watching the cars, touring the pits and garage, and enjoy lunch provided by Andretti-Green Racing.  

"It is really important for people to see that life continues after a spinal cord injury, and it can continue pretty well, regardless of your circumstances," said Schmidt. "There is hope. 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."  

"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. The SSPF's guests will enjoy lunch in the infield and one-on-one conversations with Schmidt and IndyCar Series and Infiniti Pro Series drivers. They will get a close look at behind-the-scenes action, the cars themselves, and they will be able to enjoy the IndyCar Series and Infiniti Pro Series qualifying.   

"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 are giving us their hospitality tent at Phoenix, like they have at other races, and putting a lunch together for our guests. They are involved in our Gala in May, which is a key fund-raiser for the Foundation, and have been completely supportive of everything we are trying to do."  

The goal of this 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 for drivers Travis Gregg, Jaime Camara and Chris Festa, 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.

 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:  Williams Company of America, Inc.  (704) 660-0796