By: Christopher Smith
Today, Toyota concluded it’s “Sponsafy Your Ride” advertising campaign by announcing the winner and revealing the winning car design. There were over 77,500 submissions, but Fay Knape, from Danbury, Texas beat the odds, something she is hoping her 13 month grandson can do.
Knape’s winning design, in honor of her grandson Karson, is aptly named “Praying for Karson”. You see, Knape wants to raise awareness of a very rare lung disease that her infant grandson has. NeuroEndorine Cell Hyperplasia in Infancy (NEHI). This disease reduces the lungs’ ability to undergo the proper gas exchange, the process in which red blood cells receive oxygen from the lungs and expel carbon dioxide, and causes a condition called hypoxemia, where tissue cells are unable to receive enough oxygen for cellular reactions. This results in unusually fast breathing and problems growing and gaining weight, among other symptoms.
Due to this disease which has no cure, and has no treatment, Karson lives 90 percent of his life on an oxygen supply. Karson’s Mother, Breah, says that there are so few known cases of NEHI, only around 150-200 cases. Breah says that some children have “grown out” of the symptoms, but the long-term effect on adult lung disorders is still not known. They only began diagnosing this disease in 2005.
Knape wanted to honor her grandson’s inspiration, so she wanted to create a car design that allowed Karson to live a life without his oxygen tank. “Normal little boy… playing with bugs, catapellers and butterflies, things that little boys are supposed to play with, without his oxygen.” She picked Denny Hamlin as her sponsor. Hamlin was honored to be a part of this promotion as well to have been selected to represent Karson’s battle.
“Normal little boy… playing with bugs, catapellers and butterflies, things that little boys are supposed to play with, without his oxygen.”
In a unexpected, and pleasant surprise, Michael Waltrip figured out another way to leverage his relationship with Toyota. Waltrip said ” [I] Talked to Denny as this is the no. 11 car and Fay designed it with Denny in mind. I said, Denny, I really believe this car needs to be on the track. I think it needs to be raced so that everyone can learn about NEHI and can raise awareness about Karson and his challenges. Would you mind if I pulled those 11s off and slapped a couple of 55s on it and took it to Sonoma and raced it through the mountains of Northern California? And he said ‘Shoot man, if you get to race, I’m in.’”
“I think it needs to be raced so that everyone can learn about NEHI and can raise awareness about Karson and his challenges,” said Waltrip.
What is great about this, is the car will participate in the parade lap at tonight’s All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Toyota has donated $5,000 to Karson’s family to help offset the cost of his medical expenses. To learn more about NEHI please visit The ChILD Foundation at www.childfoundation.us. You can also find out more on the facebook page that Knape created, Praying for Karson – Life with NEHI.