Mt. Pleasant Township racer aids effort at Ohio hospital
By A.J. Panian
Published: Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 7:58 a.m.
As the professional race car driver behind the Children's Dream Racer campaign, Mt. Pleasant Township's Jeremy Zufall said it felt “amazing” to know that one of the miniature race cars made in the likeness of his own was donated recently to Trinity Tubbs.
Trinity, 7, was diagnosed in October with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets that are necessary for normal blood clotting.
On Dec. 13, Trinity, a patient at Akron Children's Hospital Mahoning Valley's Beeghly Campus in Boardman, Ohio, was presented the child-sized racer that is a replica of a race car sponsored by Joy Global and driven by Zufall.
It will allow her to experience the excitement of driving on the race track while receiving medicine and chemotherapy treatments.
“It's an amazing feeling to be a part of this effort and with it being so close to Christmas,” Zufall said.
The Dream Racer project is made possible through the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund. Jacob Lewis, formerly from Sharpsville, Pa., fought against malignant brain tumors for most of his life. The battle ended when he was 6 years old on Sept. 7, 1995.
JoAnn Lewis, president of the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund and mother of Jacob Lewis, presented the Dream Racer to Tubbs on the date that would have been Jacob's 24th birthday in his honor.
“All he ever wanted to do was help other kids,” JoAnn Lewis said.
Jacob delivered drawings to other sick children, played jokes on them and gave rides to them in a little red wagon, she said.
The racer allows child patients to be strapped in to play video games, watch a movie or listen to music streaming from built-in, audio/video components.
It can also be equipped with flat panel display, CD/DVD player, Sony Play Station, swivel food tray, cup holder, IV stand, oxygen bottle holder and easy-roll casters with brake.
The miniature model car is built with the same materials as actual race cars — a steel roll cage and bodywork and a fabric racing seat complete with safety harness.
The racers are painted to match their full-sized counterparts and they also contain genuine graphics.
Being in one allows an ailing child to forget about medicine and chemotherapy treatments and to engage themselves in the thrill of racing, Lewis said.
“It couldn't have been a better time to donate the racer to the hospital and, to hear the story of Trinity Tubbs smiling as she played in the Dream Racer ... that was just priceless,” said Zufall, adding that while he could not be at the presentation he is planning a visit to meet Trinity early next year. “That JoAnn got to donate it on Jacob's birthday, I'd say makes it a little more special for them.”
Mark Smith — a former NASCAR painter who builds the Dream Racers — praised JoAnn Lewis, along with Sharon and Sara Cipriano of Hermitage, who together established Team Dream with the goal of raising enough money to donate one to each of the 756 children's hospitals in the United States.
“Folks ask me, is it worth the cost? When you see kids so sick they can't hold their heads up, and then a Dream Racer rolls into the room and they perk up and get a smile on their faces, yeah it's worth it,” said Smith, a North Carolina resident.
Trinity's Dream Racer is one of only 26 built by Smith.
For more information about the Jacob Lewis Memorial Fund visit www.jacoblewismemorialfund.org.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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