In Race Against Death, A Raceway Plays a Part
The New York Times
Published: November 17, 1996
In recent years, seven such children have had operations at the Medical Center and, during their recuperation period, have visited the slot-car raceway.
Most recently, Mr. and Mrs. Del Rosario welcomed Antonio Martinez, a 9-year-old from the Dominican Republic. After spending seven hours in surgery to repair a hole in his heart and five days in the hospital, Antonio visited the raceway and was enthralled by the miniature cars zooming down and around on their little tracks.
”He was so excited by the cars, the speed, the colors,” Mr. Del Rosario recalled. ”I spoke Spanish to him — I’m originally from the Philippines and we know a bit of many languages — and he laughed and played. It was amazing, because here was a boy who before his surgery had to sit down every few seconds just to catch his breath and now here he was, running and playing.”
Throughout this week, the raceway will hold a series of events to benefit Gift of Life, the Rotary program that raises money for the children. Through Tuesday, there will be a series of Race for Life sprints; the raceway provides the cars and hand-held control devices; the $5 fee goes to Gift of Life; winners receive stuffed animals dressed in racing colors and entry in a drawing for a model car. From Friday through Sunday, world-class racers can compete in the Race for Life Winter Nationals, a competition for slot cars scaled to a 24th the size of a standard race car. (Like its full-size counterpart, slot-car racing has an international following and competition schedule.) On Saturday night, a banquet to benefit Gift of Life will be held at the Ramada Inn. (Tickets are $44 a person; the number to call is 592-5375.)
The charitable activities are particularly meaningful for Mr. Del Rosario, 62, who was born to a prominent family in Manila, and, he said, ”lived the good life” until the onset of World War II. Then, his grandparents’ home was destroyed by friendly fire. His grandfather died, and the family eventually immigrated to the United States. Mr. Del Rosario went to a Jesuit high school and to New York University, married and settled in Westchester, but he never forgot his Philippine roots: on a visit there, he recalled, he was shaken by the poverty he saw.
”It should not have happened to my country, but it did,” he said, referring to children begging in the streets, which he attributed to the indifference of Ferdinand Marcos, who at the time was the President of the Philippines. Mrs. Del Rosario said: ”We’re especially saddened by the plight of children there and everywhere. We have seven children of our own, and lots of grandchildren, and it’s so hard to think of any young people in need.”