May 23, 2013
2013 Racing to Recovery Gala
Check out photos from Wednesday’s event at IndyStar.com!
Tickets still available for Wednesday's Racing to Recovery Gala
Interested in a Napa Valley wine tasting trip? A behind-the-scenes walrus tour at the zoo? How about an Indiana Pacers basketball signed by ABA legends including Mel Daniels, George McGinnis and Bobby “
April 9, 2013
SSPF to honor Al Speyer at Racing to Recovery Gala
Tickets available now for star-studded Indy event
The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF) announces it will host the 14th annual Racing to Recovery Gala Wednesday, May 22, at The Crane Bay in downtown Indianapolis.
¦ May 27, 2005
Ex-Driver's Paralysis Blocks One Path and Opens Others
May 28, 2005
Ex-Driver's Paralysis Blocks One Path and Opens Others
By DAVE CALDWELL
INDIANAPOLIS, May 27 - Sam Schmidt, who uses a pokey black wheelchair, moves much slower than he used to move - or would like to move, anyway. It takes him two and a half hours to get ready for a busy day. But he gets ready and stays in motion.
The 40-year-old Schmidt was an Indy-car driver until he was paralyzed five years ago in a crash while testing a racecar on a track in Orlando, Fla. He has since founded the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and has developed his own race team.
Schmidt, a quadriplegic, appears to be winning on both fronts. One of his drivers, Jaime Camara, won a 100-mile race Friday in a developmental series event here. Another driver for Schmidt, Richie Hearn, is to start 20th in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Schmidt, who drove in the three Indy 500's before his crash, has become more renowned since the accident than he was as a driver. He was on CNN this week, discussing the value of stem-cell research to find a solution to spinal-cord injuries.
"The way I look at it, before I was hurt, I was one of 100 drivers making a living at the top level of motor sports," Schmidt said in an interview in his team's garage. "Now, I'm an ex-Indy-car driver who's paralyzed. There's only one of me."
Schmidt has hired his first full-time employee for the foundation, the president and chief executive Ida Cahill. The foundation has raised $1.3 million in the past four years, and Schmidt's new goal is to raise $1 million a year within two years.
Those who drove against him and those who know him now are convinced that Schmidt will get there. His father, Marv, was seriously injured in an off-road accident in 1974, and doctors told his family he would never walk or talk again.
Marv Schmidt is in Indianapolis this month, walking and talking. Sam Schmidt calls his father his biggest inspiration. Sam Schmidt's friends say he has never needed much inspiration to go far.
"I think he attacks his challenge right now like he attacked racing," said Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner, who raced against Schmidt and planned to be in Sunday's race despite a crash in practice Friday.
"He can't move his body," Cahill said in an interview at the speedway, "but his mind is always going."
Christopher Reeve, the actor who was paralyzed in an equestrian competition in 1995, had a more renowned foundation to raise money and awareness for individuals trying to overcome spinal-cord injuries and other illnesses. Reeve died last October.
"We were basically riding on Christopher's coattails," Schmidt said. "He was the face on spinal-cord injuries."
Schmidt saw a void. He was not as well-known as a driver as Reeve was as an actor, and Schmidt did not think of himself as particularly eloquent. But he had the foundation, whose Web site is samschmidt.org, so he thought he could be a stronger advocate for the cause.
"If I didn't have something like this going on, I'd probably be depressed," he said. "I'd be thinking about what I can't do instead of what I can do."
Schmidt is a fixture on the Infiniti Pro Series; Camara started from the pole position Friday, and another of his drivers, Travis Gregg, qualified second. Although Schmidt said he could not afford to enter the Indy Racing League full time, he fielded an Indy 500 car for Hearn.
"I don't look at him any differently than I did before he was hurt," Hearn said. "He's just sitting down, that's all."
Schmidt does everything that any other Indy-car owner does, just a little slower. People ask him why he loves a sport that took away something from him, but his passion is steadfast. Racing is also a way to build the foundation.
Cahill said no money raised by the foundation is directed into the race team. But the race team has generated interest in the foundation. Schmidt considers the team to be an outreach of his foundation, not the other way around.
Cahill said Andretti Green Racing has donated a tent at Indy-car races so that people with spinal-cord injuries who participate in Schmidt's "Day at the Races" program are not bothered by the sun.
"He knows he was lucky," Cahill said. "He had good insurance and the support of the racing community and his family. He knows not every victim of spinal-cord injuries has that kind of support system."
As he continues as an advocate for stem-cell research, Schmidt has physical therapy 20 to 25 hours a week, mainly to prevent his lower body from atrophying. He rides a bike that sends impulses to his legs.
He is in a personal race, too.
He would like to be able to walk again. He has a wife, Sheila; a 7-year-old daughter, Savannah; and 5-year-old son, Spencer. He would love to be able to do more with them and to be able to cram even more into his busy days.
"One of his biggest things," Hearn said, "is showing people they have hope."