By Jeff Sanford
Nisku, Alberta -- August 26, 2015 -- The owner of CSN L-Jay in Nisku recently brought toys, and a chance to get behind the wheel of a real NHSA dragster, to the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
Vince Gareau is the owner of CSN L-Jay. He brought a couple of the dragsters that he and his son race to an unused ambulance bay at the hospital so that the recovering children could have a chance to get behind the wheel of a real race car. This is an event that is now in its ninth year.
“John Mandlis started it. Tragically he passed away last year. His daughter and family have taken up the organization of the event to carry it on,” says Gareau. “We made a point of appearing this year. We campaigned and got all kinds of donations. Toys, colouring books. It was overwhelming. We have enough for another 100 kids.”
The owner of a large local contractor, Chemco., brought in a truckload of stuff. “I have a one-ton truck and we filled it,” says Gareau. They also gave out a lot of grocery cards for stressed parents.
Having the dragsters in the ambulance bay allowed the kids who could come down an elevator to see the cars up close without going outside. The drivers later went up and visited the kids too sick to make it down. As anyone who has visited a children's hospital knows, this can be an emotionally intense experience.
“Trying to keep your composure when you seen these kids … it’s tough. My wife had to leave the room at one point. She came back in and was holding a baby. And then I had to leave the room,’ says Gareau. “They are amazing kids. And the people who work there are really impressive.”
CSN L-Jay sponsors six cars in NHRA division 6. Their hometown track is Castrol Raceway. Both Vince and his son have been racing for many years. But this event proved moving in a unique way.
“I‘ve never done that before. But I can tell, after having an experience like that, it’ better than any champion we’ve ever won,” says Gareau.
Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the event. If you’re in the area don’t forget to help out.