Each of the 33 drivers in the Indianapolis 500 have sponsors, but many fans who show up to the race don’t think about what those sponsors represent as they watch the cars zoom past.
But for the Indiana Donor Network, the cause behind the sponsorship is far more important than what place the driver finishes in.
When Tami Smith and her husband Jim lost her 19-year-old son Travis in a tragic car accident in 2007, she already knew her son’s organs would be donated to help save lives.
We didn’t ever think of not doing it”
– Tami Smith
“Jimmy’s mom had a bumper sticker on her car years ago that was my favorite saying from organ donation, and it was ‘Don’t take your organs to heaven. Heaven knows we need them here,’ and that always stuck with us,” she said.
Organ donation is the center of the Indiana donor network’s Driven 2 Save Lives campaign at the Indianapolis 500.
At the center of the campaign is Bryan Clauson, the driver who lost his life in a racing accident in 2016, and whose family went through a similar process to the Smiths.
When we got to the hospital, we had no idea he was a registered organ donor, and so my family found that out, and Bryan was able to save five lives with organ donation and up to 75 others with tissue donation. There are currently over 114,000 people in the US awaiting a transplant, nearly 1,300 of them in Indiana.”
– Taylor McLean, sister of Bryan Clauson
According to the driven2savelives.org, all 114,000 people who are waiting for transplants side-by-side on the track at the IMS, they would circle the track 10 times.
Pippa Mann, Clauson’s former teammate and the driver of the Indiana Donor Network’s car said she wasn’t always aware of this large need for organ donation.
It took losing two friends of mine who were donors, Bryan being the second, for me to actually make sure that I checked my license, to go to driven2savelives.org and for me to sign up online, and so it’s to keep that conversation and that awareness in the forefront of mind for race fans too, Mann said.
For Tami Smith, seeing a sponsor representing the cause her family loves gives her a feeling of joy.
For Indiana donor network to be the sponsor for Pippa Mann’s car, it’s so awesome to me, it just means so much.”
– Tami Smith
And for Clauson’s family, being part of the effort to lower the number of people waiting for their miracle, is their way of continuing his legacy.
“It’s kind of the Bryan way, to chip away at that as much as we can, and we just want everybody to register and you know, be like Bryan,” McLean said.
For more information or to register as an organ donor, visit driven2savelives.org.