'I'm famous!' Kids are treated to rides in exotic cars at North Georgia charity event
More than 200 children, who have faced or are facing severe medical conditions, got to ride in their choice of more than 100 exotic cars around the racetrack at the Atlanta Motorsports Park in Dawsonville on Saturday.
The event was part of a charity effort organized by Ferrari of Atlanta, who teamed with CURE Childhood Cancer, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities and Camp Sunshine.
“So many people just clamor to look at these cars,” said Craig Forbes, general manager at Ferrari of Atlanta. “We saw that, wow, we could put smiles on children’s faces just by allowing them to go for a ride in a car.”
The Rides to Remember event, now in its 16th year, started with a few cars and kids riding on public roads. Now with more kids and cars involved and safety a key part of the event, car owners and drivers of the six-figure vehicles follow in formation behind a pace car on the Motorsports Park’s two-mile track.
“This pace car is a little faster than the last driver,” said Adil Durrani, a real estate agent and actor, driving his 2016 Ferrari California T.
“OK. You might want to hammer it down on here,” said 13-year-old Christopher, who is in Durrani’s passenger seat.
Durrani obliges, stepping on the gas and his 553-horsepower Ferrari roars.
“See, what did I tell you?” said Christopher. “This is the fastest part of the track!”
Christopher has battled since day one, according to his mother, Julie Patterson. He was born premature at just 26-weeks and has underdeveloped lungs among other medical issues.
“He loses a lot of his memory,” said Patterson. “So just being able to make new memories is just awesome.”
Christopher’s 17-year-old brother, Samuel, has battled an autoimmune disease, said Patterson. Samuel was also at the track and got to ride in several cars.
“The G-Force is insane going around those turns,” said Samuel. “The fact that you get to come out have this much fun … it puts all the stress off your shoulders.”
The event also raises money for the partnered charities through special events including an art auction.
But the main event — the hours of rides around the racetrack in Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis, among others (including local police cars) — brightened a rainy day in North Georgia.
“So am I going to have a journalist in every car I ride in?” asked Christopher midway through the drive in Durrani’s Ferrari.
When informed it was just this car, he was undeterred, especially after he found out the Ferrari had been in a TV show.
“So I’m a kid that’s famous right now.”
He then asks for my microphone (the only person I’ve ever interviewed I let hold my mic) places it to his face like a game show host and gives this piece of advice:
“Everyone out there that’s not in a Ferrari like this, you need to get yourself one.”
After two laps the ride is over. Christopher gets out of the car and hugs his mother nearby.
“Mom, guess what? I’m famous!” said Christopher with a big smile.
“You’re famous?” said Patterson. “That’s awesome!”
And just like that, Christopher is off to get in line to take another car for a spin.