For David Gilliland and Love’s, One Miracle Deserves Another
EXCLUSIVE By Mary Jo Buchanan – While the top sixteen drivers hope for Chase miracles at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, @DavidGilliland and his sponsor Love’s Travel Stops are creating miracles of their own, particularly for one young boy who himself is a miracle.
Jack Czapla, a nine-year-old who hails from Mundelein, Illinois, will celebrate his miraculous victory after a two-year battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) by taking his first ever trip to the racetrack with the driver of the No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford.
This special experience will also help to create awareness of childhood cancers and will top off Love’s Travel Stops’ and Gilliland’s week of promoting their annual fundraising campaign for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“A few months ago, a woman from the Foundation at our hospital contacted us and said that Love’s Travel watched a video of Jack and wanted him to do an art piece for a NASCAR race,” Vickie Czapla, Jack’s mom, said. “We thought that was pretty cool but we had to do it in one night because we were going away.
“Jack had an idea of what he wanted to do and his uncle is an artist so he helped Jack put that on paper. Jack drew the cancer ribbon with fire coming out, like the race car going fast, and it’s orange because that is the color for leukemia. When Jack found out he was going to the track, he was super-excited, screaming and yelling.”
She continued, “He has told all of his friends and teachers so they are all tuning in. He writes about it every day for his journal for school. He feels very honored. He was shocked that they picked him. He feels like a celebrity. I think we all do.”
“He’s heard of racing but we’ve never been to a NASCAR race ever. But since this occurred, Jack’s been watching NASCAR on You Tube and we’ve been watching every Sunday. He’s been following David and it’s been really neat. David has called him a couple times on the phone and they talked which was so cute. He’s just really excited.”
Jack is apparently not the only one excited about this race weekend.
“I feel very honored to be part of this and to have Jack at the race track,” David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports driver, said. “His story is such an inspiration and to bring awareness to help the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals is such an honor.
“I’ve not met Jack yet but I’ve talked to him on the phone,” Gilliland continued. “He’s a very energetic young boy that likes racing. I’m excited to hang out with him all weekend.”
“He has an identical driver’s suit as mine that he will wear all day. He helped design the hood of the car and the helmet that I’ll be wearing this weekend. His family sent me a picture of him in his driving suit and man, the smile on his face, it makes me overwhelmed with joy every time I look at it.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make it the best weekend possible for him.”
Jack’s family has received an hour-by-hour itinerary of what they will be doing at the track, from attending the drivers’ meeting to sitting atop the pit box during the race. But they are a family on a mission so they also have a purpose of their own for being at track.
“Raising awareness about childhood cancer is what we are most excited about,” Vickie Czapla said. “But we are really looking forward to meeting the driver and the people from Love’s. I think just to have a fun day with people we don’t know that feel like family will be the best part of it.”
Gilliland and Love’s share in that excitement as well.
“Seeing Jack and a short video of what he has gone through and overcome is very inspirational to me,” Gilliland said. “I think this is the most I’ve looked forward to a race all year.”
“This is what it’s all about,” Jenny Love Meyer, vice president of communications for Love’s, said. “Our Love’s team members are working hard to raise money, and our customers give generously every year to help CMN Hospitals make miracles happen for sick and injured kids.”
This month marks the 16th year that Love’s Travel Stops has created miracles through fundraising for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Cashiers at the Love’s locations have raised the funds by asking all of their customers to buy paper balloons to benefit the CMN hospitals.
Gilliland will also be visiting the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago on the Thursday prior to the race weekend. This was the hospital where a miracle occurred for Jack in his cancer treatment.
“I’m really looking forward to visiting the children’s hospital and seeing the great work that these doctors and nurses do,” Gilliland, a father of two himself, said. “As a parent, it just breaks your heart to know the things that these kids have to go through. And it makes me extra proud to have Love’s as a partner, knowing how much they do to help raise money to help get these kids healthy again.”
“Love’s Travel and David have been amazing,” Jack’s mother said. “They have made us feel very, very important.”
“This is an honor beyond honors and we are super excited. Thank you is not a big enough word for all of this.”
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