After a two-year hiatus, Toronto’s annual race, the Honda Indy, is finally back on the streets this weekend.
And among the elated, ready-to-race drivers is Devlin DeFrancesco, who was born in the city two decades ago, and seeks to honor the hospital that carried him into the world.
The 22-year-old rookie, who is ranked 22nd in the world and making his Honda Indy debut in the NTT Indycar Series, likes to say he’s always been in a hurry.
His catchphrase is “born fast” – and he’s not kidding. DeFrancesco was born 15 weeks early.
And at an event Thursday at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, DeFrancesco praised the medical team that saved him as a newborn.
“I’m really extremely blessed and blessed to have had the Sunnybrook team around me because without them I probably wouldn’t have been here,” he said at the event.
In a mini-documentary, DeFrancesco’s mother opened up about how her son was born incredibly premature.
“He really had no chance of survival,” she said. “The doctors even said, ‘You should get his last rites.’ The priest came. »
He had a collapsed lung, severe cerebral hemorrhage, and weighed just one pound. The first four months of her life were spent in an incubator in the neonatal care unit.
A doctor and nurse who cared for him all those years ago were at the event on Thursday.
DeFrancesco beat all odds to overcome these complications. At the age of six, he was already pursuing his passion for fast driving.
Now, as a professional racing driver, he uses his position to start a campaign called Racing For The Tiniest Babies to raise money for Sunnybrook.
It will match donations of up to $250,000 for the hospital’s DAN Women & Babies program, which helps thousands of families and premature babies across Ontario, with money also going to the neonatal program at the hospital. hospital and its intensive care unit, which treats approximately seventy micro premature babies – like DeFrancesco – each year, all weighing less than three pounds.
“I will always support Sunnybrook for the rest of my life,” DeFrancesco said.
This weekend, as he races on the track, his car will feature the hospital logo. As is his racing suit and helmet, emblazoned with Sunnybrook’s name and words of encouragement.
A key sentiment on the side of the helmet sums it up: “once small, always strong”.