Giving Back
November 7, 2022

 “Still I Rise”: Survivor meets idol at Circuit of The Americas

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While the 2022 Formula One United States Grand Prix (Oct. 21-23) was in full swing at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), there were a few special fans among the crowd. One was Wish Kid Harrison.

Three years ago, Harrison and his family were faced with unexpected health challenges that tested their resolve. Through each doctor’s visit, treatment session, and day spent in the hospital, the support from his family—and a dream of meeting his hero, Lewis Hamilton, in person at a Formula One race—was the hope Harrison needed to encourage healing. Thanks to Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas and COTA, this year, his dream come true.

The day before race weekend officially began, Harrison and his mother, Susan, arrived with contagious excitement to experience Media Day from the fan’s perspective. Harrison was greeted by COTA’s Make-A-Wish representative, Drake Allen, at COTA’s Main Grandstand and escorted to the Paddock where he would spend the afternoon, witnessing COTA and Formula 1 teams and drivers go about their race preparations. After a tour of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS garage, where Harrison learned coveted information from world-class engineers, it was finally time for Harrison to come face to face with, 7-time World Champion driver, Lewis Hamilton. Alongside his mother, he was warmly welcomed into the Mercedes hospitality suite for the meet-and-greet. As Hamilton rounded the corner, Harrison was beaming ear to ear. Sitting across from one another, Harrison and Hamilton discussed Hamilton’s F1 career and personal car collection in-depth, until the breakthrough when Harrison felt comfortable to share a deeply authentic account of his courageous health journey. By the end of their conversation, it seemed as if the two had known each other for years. 

Harrison returned to COTA for practice day of race weekend (Oct. 21), still on Cloud 9 from meeting Sir Lewis Hamilton, and began his day with the sensational views of the Austin City Skyline during his Observation Tower tour with Make-A-Wish Ambassador, Kathryn Buys. To elevate their experience, COTA representatives escorted Harrison and his mother to one of COTA’s hospitality suites where they enjoyed the support races and an exquisite buffet meal in a luxurious atmosphere. Once FP2 was over, Harrison and company headed into COTA’s Lonestar Land to explore while eagerly awaiting the Green Day concert. 

For the remainder of the weekend, Harrison made the absolute most of his Wish. From grabbing a free slice of cake in honor of COTA’s 10th birthday to witnessing a dramatic F1 Qualifying session, and then meeting Ed Sheeran and Shaquille O’Neal, every moment was magic.  “During Harrison’s meet and greet with Ed Sheeran, Ed allowed him to wear his $40,000 watch in the photo! Harrison is so passionate about watches, beyond cars, this was absolutely one of the best parts about this experience,” Harrison’s mother, Susan said. 

The endless jumping to Sheeran’s tunes at the pit of the Super Stage seemed to rev Harrison’s engine for race day. The Grand Prix had Harrison on the tip of his toes as he cheered on Hamilton, hoping for a win this season. Harrison ended the weekend elated, celebrating his idol’s podium finish.

“We’re so grateful for everything that Circuit of The Americas does to go above and beyond, making these core memories for Make-A-Wish families beyond special—and that we get to be a part of it. We’ve been volunteering for this for ten years now and I always tear up thinking about my time with each kid and each family. These families are incredible representatives of strength and seeing joy in every moment of life,” Make-A-Wish Ambassador Kathryn Buys said.

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