The Andretti name is usually associated with IndyCar and racing, but on Tuesday their namesake stood for something much more, having opened the doors of Andretti Autosport to patients of Riley Children's Hospital.
"I love what I do for a living," said John Andretti. "And to be able to give back or be able to be associated with a great hospital institution like Riley Hospital for Children who touches 250,000 a year means a lot to and hopefully we do make a little bit of a difference."
Tuesday's festivities were part of John Andretti's Kroger Race for Riley Sponsored by Cheerios. Through this event, John has raised more than $1.6 million for Riley Hospital. "I'm really excited, I can't believe it's 15 years now. It's sort of like having a child that's growing up and you go, 'Wait a minute, then I must be older, too.'"
The day included a question and answer session, pictures, and a tour of the Andretti Autosport facilities. "Some of the questions you get from the kids are pretty funny. We always get the one, 'What happens if you have to go to the bathroom?'" said Michael Andretti.
Throughout the years, John Andretti developed relationships with some of the Riley patients. "You create an attachment with certain kids and their families," said John Andretti.
"But I think emotionally it is also something that is very draining when you go in and see them, but also very inspirational to see these kids and the battles they fight. You think that you're fighting battles and what you have to conquer is so small compared to what they are trying to do."
Braden Tamosaitis, a Riley patient, is one of Andretti's favorite attendees of the event. Having been at the Race for Riley and Andretti Autosport tour two years in a row, Braden's favorite part is looking inside the trailers and telling his friends about his summer adventures when he returns to school to begin the first grade. Braden's father Kevin Tamosaitis is thankful that the Andrettis are so humble with their time.
"The fact that it's about the kids and not about what's going on with the kids and the kids just get to come and spend time with the drivers and John and Michael," said Kevin Tamosaitis. "It's something that most kids don't get to do, but it takes their mind off of other things going on, all the doctors' appointments."
On Wednesday the event continues when fans can get their turn on-track with John Andretti at New Castle Motorsports Park. With a donation to Riley Hospital, fans have the opportunity to try to qualify and then race John, and also meet some of the children from Riley.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun