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November 7, 2022

COTA and Make-A-Wish Bring Healing to Courageous Family During F1 USGP Weekend

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During the 2022 Formula One Aramco United States Grand Prix weekend, the Make-A-Wish foundation and Circuit of The Americas granted four wishes. Two came for international rock band Green Day, another wished to meet racing legend Lewis Hamilton, and 19-year-old Ryan joined the record-breaking crowd to experience everything Formula One in person.

COTA has partnered with Make-A-Wish before, most recently to make-a-wish come true for Wish Kid Knox from Tennessee who dreamt of being a racecar driver. However, Ryan, an engineering major, has always been excited about how things work. “As a child he was interested in building toys, Legos, models, doing projects around the house or yard, and wanted to use tools any chance he could,” said Ryan’s mom Becky. “He wanted to take apart the vacuum cleaner, install door handles and light switches, and help me build a fence. He’s the only one of my kids who wanted to learn how a car engine works and change his own oil.”

Ryan received a diagnosis of stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in his sophomore year of high school. After the first round of chemotherapy, he suffered unimaginable side-effects slowing the recovery process. During this period of recovery, the whole family became interested in the then new show on Netflix Formula 1: Drive to Survive. Ryan’s family watched every season as soon as it was released, and then began watching races live on television. “While the rest of us were really only interested in the races, Ryan watched Friday practices and Saturday qualifying and would explain it all to us over dinner. He’d watch YouTube videos about the cars, how they’re built, what they can do, how they’ve evolved over time, what drivers experience when they’re driving, engine specs, safety features, tire compounds…He knows all the teams and all the drivers, news developments, and anything else you could think of,” Becky said.

But Ryan’s passion goes beyond research and what he watches. He worked a summer job at an indoor go-kart racing venue called K1 Speed and has a goal to start an official F1 club at his college. Ryan even evolved his style based on Formula 1 drivers. After Ryan let his hair grow long during his freshman year of college, he showed up at the salon with a picture of Charles LeClerc from the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team and handed it to the stylist, asking for exactly that look. He even chose his outfits for the 2022 USGP race weekend at COTA according to the style patterns he’s noticed with the drivers. 

In October of 2021, when Ryan and his family were watching the USGP at COTA on TV, Ryan realized his real wish was to attend the race in person, to get exposure and involvement in the ‘insider’ process of an F1 Grand Prix experience. 

So, Make-A-Wish and COTA partnered to bring his wish to fruition. Ryan received a tour of COTA’s expansive campus including the exclusive Paddock area. However, what he did not know was the pinch of extra magic the COTA Team had whipped up for him: A surprise tour of Scuderia AlphaTauri’s team garage with expert guide Fabian Wrabetz, Director of Partnerships & Business Development at Scuderi AlphaTauri F1 Team. From watching engineers work on the front wing of a car and counting the sensor wires that line it, to seeing the seat custom-molded to Pierre Gasly’s back, there was no detail left unnoticed by Ryan. After the garage tour, Ryan took photos in front of every team’s garage and received a priceless keepsake: A signed cap from McLaren’s current drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

The remainder of the weekend was spent exploring the Fan Zone in COTA’s Grand Plaza, visiting the iconic 25-story Observation Tower during F1’s first practice session, and enjoying the exquisite complimentary food and beverages and views from the luxurious Circuit Suite with their trusty guide, Make-A-Wish Ambassador and COTA Volunteer Ron Buys. “It really was a true gift to personally get to know Ryan and his family,” Ron said. “Ryan and I share a passion for mechanics, and he was just beyond inspirational to me and to everyone that encountered him at COTA.”

Beyond the race weekend festivities, the COTA Team came up with a few extra surprises to go above and beyond for Ryan and the other Wish Kids on property. Meet and greets with Ed Sheeran and Shaquille O’Neal AKA DJ Diesel, pit experience for the Green Day and Ed Sheeran concerts, Circuit of The Americas merchandise, and personal golf cart chauffeurs for the whole weekend. “I don’t have words to even express how healing this experience was for our family,” Becky said. “We’re so grateful for everyone at COTA and Make-A-Wish who made this possible.”   

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