By Jeff Sanford
Fredericton, New Brunswick — August 7, 2015 — When Dana Alexander got a call from a good friend asking if he could sponsor a go-kart race, there was no way to say no. “I am a huge race fan. And I’m a supporter of local events,” says Alexander.
As the owner of Fredericton New Brunswick area collision repair centre CSN-Dana’s Collision, he already sponsors a couple of local stock car races. But providing the trophies for the Moncton-area go-karting event turned out to be extra special.
As Alexander found out, one of the racers was Austin Riley, a go-karter from Uxbridge,Ontario who suffers from autism. Although Riley has a disability he continues to compete, and does well. Riley is considered a rising star in Canadian motorsports. He is a 3-time go-karting champion and came in second in the recent Moncton race that Alexander’s shop sponsored.
“Austin is an amazing kid. Once he puts the helmet on he is just another racer. He only stands out by his skill and driving ability,” says Alexander.
Riley was competing in the senior class. “It’s very competitive. They do a lot of strategy. It’s like formula one. You can try to outbreak someone in the corners,” says Alexander.
To know the kid was racing with a disability was in inspiring. When Riley finished second, it was a heart warming moment. “When he finished second his parents were all crying. It’s an amazing story. I was really honoured to be part of it. It was an honour to be there and present the trophies,” says Alexander.
CSN Collision Centres stepped up to provide the trophies that Alexander presented. Going on to talk about the impact sponsoring this event has had on him, Alexander said that, “I learned a lot about autism in the last month.” Just a couple weeks ago he attended a Steve Earle concert where the singer talked about his son who has autism. “Since then I’ve educated myself about this. There are more and more people with this. We don’t know what the cause is. It seems to be something in the environment,” says Alexander.
People like Riley are helping to dispel the ignorance. This summer Riley has been on what is billed as Austin’s Autism awareness Tour. He and his family have traveled from Florida to California and BC the Moncton event for this year. The Moncton race was the last part of that tour.
“His mom and dad are incredible people. He’s just like any other kid. When he puts that helmet on … he’s out there and focused. The biggest thing that made an impact on me … the other racers all came over and gave him high fives before the race. And at the end, the first place guy had him come up on the winners’ podium. To them he’s just another racer. He didn’t show his disability,” says Alexander.
The heart warming finish was the perfect end to a big weekend for Alexander. The Friday of the weekend was his 50th wedding anniversary. He and his wife have been going to races since before they were married, so the race was a nice way to celebrate a half century. “We spent the night in Moncton and had a good night,” says Alexander.
The Moncton go-kart track is also the circuit where CSN-Dana’s Collision competes once a year against another local CSN shop. “It’s a team building exercise. We race against them once a year. It’s great. Anyone can do it,” says Alexander.
Find out more about Austin Riley at racingwithautism.com.