A Super Day for Supercars

Categories: Events, Patient Families

This year’s Concorso Ferrari & Friends event in West Hartford was even more spectacular than previous years, with about 10,000 people, 160 supercars and more than $175,000 raised for the new Infusion & Dialysis Centers planned at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Among the eye-popping Italian sports cars in attendance were Maseratis, Lamborghinis, and, of course, Ferraris. And then there were the Paganis—seven of them, rare as rhinos (and much, much faster). These astonishing cars are among the most expensive, most exotic, and highest-performing cars in the world. One specially made variant goes from zero to 60 in 2.2 seconds, with a top speed of over 230 miles per hour.

Having seven Paganis in one place is remarkable, but it wasn’t just the cars themselves that made this year’s Concorso so special: One of the highlights of the event was a glamorous reception held the night before at the Delamar West Hartford Hotel for Horacio Pagani himself, the founder of Pagani Automobili and the designer of the cars. He attended the event for the first time, and more than 130 guests came to meet him and marvel at his creations.

A Child’s Dream Come True

But the stars of the June 24th event really were the 43 Connecticut Children’s patients who rode in the supercars during the parade down LaSalle Road in West Hartford. One of those, and perhaps the most excited of all, was 9-year-old Nick Stratton.

When Nick was 6 months old, he developed infantile seizures, a generic descriptor for a horrific condition. “He would have 50 or 60 seizures a day for two and a half years straight,” says his father, Bill. “The doctors tried every possible medication available at the time to control them, with no luck. Finally, after a tough three years and medication, he was seizure free.”

That lasted until age 7, when the seizures returned in a different form and sent Nick to the hospital. “Unfortunately, the seizures have set him back developmentally,” Bill says. “At the age of 7, he was at the developmental stage of a 1-year-old. He doesn’t eat solid food, and his main source of nutrition is PediaSure. He lost the ability to eat solid foods when he was put on the ketogenic diet to stop the seizures. Since then, he will not touch food.”

Communication has also been a problem for Nick, as his speech is very limited. By the time he was 7, he could say “Mommy” and “Daddy” and knew his colors, but he has a long road ahead. “He also suffers from cerebral palsy on his right side,” Bill says. “Doctors don’t know when or how this happened, either, but it limits his function on his right side.”

Crazy About Cars

Nick is crazy about NASCAR and monster trucks, so riding in a supercar was a tremendous thrill for him. “When Connecticut Children’s first sent us an invitation for Nick to be part of Concorso, we found that he was too small to ride in the front seat of the cars, and we thought he wouldn’t be able to participate,” Bill says. “But then a couple of days before the event, we got an email saying they found a Ferrari with a back seat, and he would be able to ride there. He sat in the back seat with a smile from ear to ear. For the most part, he’s nonverbal and can’t communicate much, but he was saying, “Go, go, go!” He pretended to shift with his arm and made all the noises. At one point, the driver had some street room and floored it, and when he did that, Nick just lit up.”

Meeting the Man

But Nick’s adventure didn’t stop there. Nick got to meet Mr. Pagani. “That was incredible,” Bill says. “Here’s a guy who’s famous, who makes million-dollar cars, and he is truly an amazing person to be so receptive to a kid who can’t communicate. He kissed him on the head. To meet a guy like that who embraced him, that just changes your perspective on a lot of different things. The thing was, he spoke zero English and my son spoke nothing, but he was still able to connect with him, and they interacted.”
“Living with a child with Nick’s condition can be challenging at times,” Bill says, “but an opportunity like this makes it all worthwhile.”