Honda Indy: Toronto racer is raising money for Sunnybrook

After a two-year hiatus, Toronto’s annual race, the Honda Indy, is finally back on the streets this weekend.

And among the racers up to speed and ready to race is Devlin DeFranceco, who was born in the city two decades ago, and is looking to pay tribute to the hospital that brought him into the world.

The 22-year-old rookie, who is ranked 22 in the world and is making his Honda Indy debut in the NTT Indycar series, likes to say that he’s always in a hurry.

His tagline is “fast birth” – and he’s not kidding. DeFranceco was born 15 weeks premature.

And at an event Thursday at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Science Center, DeFranceco praised the medical team that saved him as an infant.

“It’s definitely incredibly lucky and fortunate to have the team in Sunnybrook around me, because without them I most likely wouldn’t be here,” he said at the event.

In a small documentary, DeFranceco’s mother told how her son was born prematurely.

“He really had no chance of survival,” she said, “The doctors even said, ‘you should perform his last rites,’ The priest has come.”

He had a collapsed lung, a severe brain bleed, and weighed only a pound. The first four months of his life were spent in an incubator in the neonatal ward.

A doctor and nurse who cared for him years ago were present at Thursday’s event.

DeFranceco beat the odds to overcome those complications. By the age of six, he had followed his passion for fast driving.

Now, as a professional racer, he is using his position to launch a campaign called Racing For The Tiniest Babies to raise money for Sunnybrook.

He will be donating up to $250,000 to the hospital’s DAN Women & Newborns Program, which helps thousands of families and premature babies across Ontario, with the money also going to the neonatal program. of the hospital and its ICU, each year deals with about 70 micro-preemies — like DeFranceco — all of which weigh less than 3 pounds.

“I will always support Sunnybrook for the rest of my life,” DeFranceco said.

This weekend, as he races around the track, his car will feature the hospital logo. As well as his racing suit and helmet, emblazoned with Sunnybrook’s name and words of encouragement.

An important sentiment on the side of the helmet sums it up: “once small, always strong.”

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