Fourteen-year-old Braden Shumbo looked perfectly at home in the passenger seat of the bright yellow, 600-horsepower, $200,000 Lamborghini Huracán. He wore sunglasses, naturally, and had an attitude that said, “Yes, I do ride in Lambos every day.” He maintained that attitude as the car drove down LaSalle Road in West Hartford with the streets lined with 10,000 spectators cheering him on. And he kept his cool as he mounted the stage to cheers and received a medal from supercar builder Horacio Pagani. It was the 2018 Concorso Ferrari & Friends, an annual event in which Ferraris, Maseratis, Paganis, and, yes, Lamborghinis and other Italian supercars and motorcycles invade West Hartford to benefit Connecticut Children’s patients.
This year, 40 other kids like Braden will have the opportunity to enjoy that unforgettable ride when Concorso Ferrari & Friends comes to town Sunday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
One in 300
Braden does not, in fact, ride in Lambos every day. He is a middle-school student in Plainville and a Connecticut Children’s patient. He is also a member of a very exclusive club: He is one of only 300 children in the world who have glucose transporter type 1 deficiency (usually shortened to glut 1). This is a genetic condition in which the body lacks a protein that is necessary to carry glucose across the blood-brain barrier. Glucose, a simple sugar, is the primary fuel for the brain, and if the supply is too low, there can be all sorts of developmental issues, motor function problems and other severe consequences.
Braden’s diagnosis was actually a coincidence. His parents, Kim and Steven, had been bringing him to Connecticut Children’s because he was continually having seizures and turning blue. To make matters more confusing, anti-seizure medication only made things worse. Everyone was baffled. Then a doctor who had just returned from a medical conference said he had heard about this condition called glut 1, and it seemed to fit Braden’s symptoms (the condition was only identified in 1991).
A genetic test confirmed the diagnosis, which allowed his caregivers to begin a more effective treatment. The good news is that the most effective treatment for glut 1 is simple: a ketogenic diet (high fat, moderate protein and very low carbohydrates). Braden will be on that diet for the rest of his life.
Rising to the Challenges
Because glut 1 prevents the brain from getting sufficient nutrition, the brain becomes damaged over time if the disease is not treated. For Braden, the condition had progressed enough by the time of diagnosis that he experienced some neurological damage, including a few developmental setbacks, speech impairment and cognitive issues. But he is much better off than some children with this condition.
“He met one boy in the hospital who wasn’t diagnosed until he was 13,” Kim says, “and that boy is in a wheelchair and completely unable to function. We were lucky.”
And indeed, Braden is a charming, friendly young man today, with kind eyes and a ready smile. He’s heading to high school in the fall. And he’s crazy about cars. He has Ferrari models in his room and his two medals from previous Concorso events.
A Premier Event
Now in its 19th year, Concorso Ferrari & Friends is a signature automobile event in Southern New England and has become one of the premier fundraising events for Connecticut Children’s, attracting more than 10,000 spectators and car enthusiasts annually, while raising awareness and critical support for Connecticut Children’s.
Celebrating all makes and models of Italian automobiles, the highlight of the day is the Patient Parade. The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. with 40 Connecticut Children’s patients, like Braden, chauffeured in beautiful exotic sports cars from Connecticut Children’s in Farmington to LaSalle Road in West Hartford. One by one, the cars pull up to the red carpet, where their young passengers receive a rock-star-worthy welcome and a medal from a celebrity. This year our honorary parade marshal will be legendary Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, who guided the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team to three national championships in 1999, 2004, and 2011.
This year’s Concorso weekend will also feature Grand Prix driver Skip Barber, who is probably best known for the world-renowned racing school he established. He will be the featured speaker at a cocktail reception on Saturday, June 22 at the Farmington Polo Grounds. Tickets for the event, which starts at 6:00 p.m., are limited and are going quickly. Click here to register for the Skip Barber event.
And, of course, the June 23 main event will feature many, many amazing cars, including vintage Alfa Romeos, Fiats and Lamborghinis and the supercars of Ferrari, Pagani and Maserati. One of them will be driven by Charlie Vest, who has been participating for more than 15 years and is co-chair of the organizing committee.
“My first involvement with Connecticut Children’s was, in fact, Concorso,” he says. “I participated as a parade driver in the second event back in 2002. I had, and still have, a beautiful old Ferrari. It’s a 1984 model 308 GTS, more commonly known as the Magnum P.I. car. I remember in college watching ‘Magnum P.I.’ and seeing that very cool Ferrari. I would doodle in high school study hall, dreaming of a car like that. It took 20 more years before I realized my dream when my wife Diane surprised me for my 40th birthday with the go-ahead to purchase one. She’s a real keeper!”
“The big thing for me participating in Concorso that first time,” Charlie continues, “was the experience of driving in the patient parade,” Charlie recalls. “I was hooked from there on. Our parade gives really deserving children something to have great fun with and smile about, and maybe even get their mind off of the issues and challenges they’re facing, at least for a day. And I feel truly blessed and honored to have shared my car and my passion with such amazing kids all of these years ever since.”
Helping Even More Kids
Concorso does even more: It also generates a significant amount of money that supports tens of thousands of children who come to Connecticut Children’s each year for care.
Proceeds from the 2019 event will benefit patients at Connecticut Children’s through the Family Support Fund, which helps with critical expenses not covered by insurance.