There is a saying from Joyce Rachelle that goes, “when we’re struck with cruelty, we can either inflict the same on others like it’s a rite of passage, or decide that here is where it stops.” For Stefan Wilson, the obstacles and setbacks he has faced in life have only propelled him forward.
This May, Wilson will compete in his second Indianapolis 500 driving for Andretti Autosport as a one-off entry on May 27. Just as the first time around, Stefan will be supported in his Indianapolis efforts by Driven 2 Save Lives, a campaign designed to generate awareness and action when discussing organ donation.
After the tragic passing of Justin Wilson, the older brother of Stefan, a shining light was discovered when the organ donations of Justin saved multiple lives and organs of people he did not even know.
Rising from this event, the Driven 2 Save Lives campaign took flight as a platform to elevate the conversation about donation and transplantation within the racing community. Additionally, the initiative aims to honor donor heroes and those who are still waiting for life-saving and life-altering transplants.
For the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, Driven 2 Save Lives teamed up with Stefan Wilson and KVSH Racing to compete while creating a unique and engaging stage to discuss organ donation in both the racing world, as well as the world outside of racing.
While he finished the race in 28th place, Wilson had made an indelible mark on the motorsports community and the nation as a whole.
The campaign would be a nationwide success, with support from organ donation organizations around the United States seeing increases in organ donor sign-ups, an uptick in media coverage for the program and a tremendous response from social media.
In 2017, Wilson and Driven 2 Save Lives were in line for another crack at the Indianapolis 500 – this time with the Honda-powered Andretti Autosport. Pen had nearly been put to paper before the INDYCAR world was shocked with the arrival of Fernando Alonso to the race’s 101st rendition, and Wilson graciously vacated his seat to allow the two-time Formula One world champion a chance at Indy’s crown jewel.
Following his kind gesture, Stefan continued to support the Driven 2 Save Lives initiative by driving home a partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that would give the program a presence at the track during the world-famous month of May.
Utilizing a new platform, Wilson went on the offensive to raise awareness around the state of Indiana while Driven 2 Save Lives volunteers operated an attractive display in a Speedway garage that featured an iRacing simulator with virtual reality, informative graphics about organ donation and an easy-to-use sign-up method.
While promoting the previously mentioned attractions at the display, a large emphasis was placed on the passing of highly successful dirt track open-wheeler, Bryan Clauson. Following in the footsteps of Justin Wilson, Clauson’s death not only helped saved and enriched the lives of many with his own organ donation, but it spawned an incredible uptick in organ donor sign-ups.
After saving five lives on his own by being an organ donor, Clauson’s decision generated a windstorm of donor sign-ups that exceeded 3,500 registrations by the one month anniversary of his death. With each individual that agrees to be an organ donor, approximately five lives can be saved.
What this means is that Bryan’s death and the resulting donor sign-ups could potentially save up to 18,800 lives, with the number rising as we speak.
In 2018, the Driven2Save Lives campaign is looking to reach another gear.
Back in the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport, Stefan Wilson will be driving the No. 25 Honda machine with Driven 2 Save Lives on the car. “I’m very excited to be officially joining the Andretti Autosport team for the 102nd Indy 500,” Wilson said in October.
“It has been a roller-coaster ride to get here, but when looking back, I’m really pleased and feel very fortunate to be in the spot I’m in now. I’ve just kept thinking about the future, knowing that I’d be joining one of the most successful teams in Indy.”
Keen to keep the current momentum going, Wilson supplements his goal of winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing with a goal of registering more and more organ donors in the build-up to this May’s festivities.
“Ultimately, we are working to register more donors,” said Wilson. “Organ donation and transplantation is a cause I’m connected to through the loss of Justin, who saved five lives. We’ll be working with Driven 2 Save Lives to provide hope to patients on the national wait list, and honor donor heroes.”
Since the program’s launch, Driven 2 Save Lives has added more than 1,000 individuals to the national organ, tissue and eye donor list. While this is an astounding number, the group remains motivated with 118,000 people nationwide waiting for a lifesaving organ donation.
This year, Driven 2 Save Lives aims to save more lives through donation and transplantation by increasing the number of registered donors, garnering additional nationwide earned media around patients waiting for a donation, and improving the sentiment around donation and transplantation.
Driven 2 Save Lives has been able to connect with the racing community in a way that could have proven challenging. In registering for organ donation, an individual makes a decision that recognizes they may leave this earth before their desired time.
It is often more difficult to make professional race car drivers to come to this realization, as these competitors often try their best to remove the ultimate sacrifice from their headspace.
Considering the labors of Stefan Wilson, and the impact that Bryan Clauson and Justin Wilson’s deaths had on the racing community, Driven 2 Save Lives has been able to break the mold and make an impact with names such as Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, Tyler Courtney, Justin Grant and many more.
It is important to recognize the incredible amount of work Wilson has done in bringing people from various walks of life together in support of this cause – all the more reason to support his efforts in the Indianapolis 500.
“Stefan is uniting race fans and elevating the conversation around donation and transplantation, and with his help, we hope to get more people across the country to register their decision to donate,” said Kellie Hanner, president and chief executive officer at Indiana Donor Network. “We are grateful for his efforts.”
If you are interested in becoming an organ donor, signing up take just 30 seconds. Visit driven2savelives.org, where an easy-to-manage sign-up form is located at the bottom of the page.
Images courtesy of INDYCAR Media.