This weekend on the streets of Toronto, NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Devlin DeFrancesco is returning home and raising awareness for a cause that he believes, quite literally, saved his life.
DeFrancesco, who will drive the No. 29 PowerTap Honda for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3 p.m. ET, live on Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network), was born Jan. 17, 2000. This wasn’t your typical birth, however.
DeFrancesco was born 15 weeks premature and weighed just over 1 pound. His prognosis at birth was grim, and he was even read his last rites. DeFrancesco spent the first four months of his life at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, and he credits those four months as the reason he was able to fight and be here today.
“If I wasn’t at Sunnybrook, I probably wouldn’t have survived,” DeFrancesco said. “My family and I will be eternally grateful for Sunnybrook’s care, because nothing that followed would have been possible without them.”
DeFrancesco continued to grow and eventually became stable and healthy enough to leave the hospital and be in the regular care of his family. Then, he got on the path from preemie to race car driver.
DeFrancesco competed in FIA Formula 3, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, even winning the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona this year for DragonSpeed USA.
Now, DeFrancesco is driving in his rookie NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, and while improving on his 22nd place in the championship standings is top of mind at his home racetrack, he has another priority this weekend: Raising money for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center.
Last month, DeFrancesco announced a new initiative in conjunction with the Toronto hospital: Racing for the Tiniest Babies. The new initiative raises funds and awareness for Sunnybrook’s DAN Women & Babies Program, which supports thousands of families and premature babies across the Ontario province each year.
Exemplified by the social media hashtag #BornFast, DeFrancesco and his family are matching all donations to the campaign up to $250,000, which will help the DAN Women & Babies Program and help the hospital’s most vulnerable patients survive and thrive while providing personalized car for women with high-risk pregnancies.
More than 4,000 babies are born each year at Sunnybrook, including many high-risk deliveries, premature and sick babies, along with “micro-preemies.”
“From working to prevent premature births and caring for preterm infants, to understanding the complexity of multiple births, we are working tirelessly to provide world-leading care for families,” said Dr. Eugene Ng, chief, newborn and development pediatrics at the DAN Women & Babies Program. “Devlin is just one of the thousands of examples of program graduates going on to big things, and we couldn’t be more proud.”
Race fans looking to support the cause can donate, sign a cheer card to support DeFrancesco and enter to win the Born Fast: The Ultimate VIP Racing Experience for the Honda Indy Toronto here.