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Start your engines: Heartkids Hillclimb

Wendy Johnson

Daniel Cummins’ little brother was passionate about racing cars. Racing cars of all kinds. William even had a collection of 100 matchbox cars and a Playstation car racing game, which he adored.

“Getting his learner’s license and driving a cool black car was the last thing we spoke about,” says Daniel, a Canberra-based photographer. “But Will never made it. The heart defect he had since birth finally got the better of him.”

This year Will would have been 27 years of age. To honour his brother’s memory, Daniel is once more organising the HeartKids HillClimb, which will take place Sunday 22 March at the Fairbairn Park Hillclimb Track.

HeartKids Hillclimb is a unique event held each year to raise awareness, funds and support for those with childhood heart disease. It features time trial car racing action and opportunities for kids to ride around the track—slowly—in a race car.

Will was born premature with a complex, chromosome syndrome. As part of his health problem, he had a congenital heart defect and doctors weren’t sure he would survive for even days, never mind months or years. Will was flown from Canberra to Sydney children’s hospital, where specialists discovered he had problems with how his lungs connected to his heart.

But Will did survive thanks to numerous operations and many-a-moment feeling, well, terribly ill.

“He was delayed in speech and couldn’t talk till he was about five years old,” says Daniel. “He was a little character though. While it was hard for him to be at school, he gave it a go. But at age 12, in the year 2000, it all became too much for Will’s body and the doctors told us all there was nothing else they could do—that we needed to just help him enjoy the rest of his life. So we went on a couple of holidays to the Gold Coast with him and had as much fun as we could until we had to say our final goodbye.”

The drugs and technology used for the type of illness William suffered have come a long way in recent years, but ongoing research and funding support is needed. That’s where events like the HeartKids Hillclimb come in. HeartKids ACT and NSW join forces to raise funds as one entity.

“If you have a heart condition in this area you end up in Sydney for treatment,” says Daniel.

In 2009, Daniel decided to do something to celebrate Will’s life and he’s been running the HeartKids Hillclimb ever since, raising about $45,000 to date. Funds are raised through the entry fees the racers pay, sponsorships from business, raffle ticket sales and even food and drink sold on the day to participants and spectators.

The sealed, tarmac racetrack out at Fairbarn is about one kilometre in length and it winds up and around a big hill. The event is a time trial so there’s one race car on the track at a time with race times posted on a large screen. For the HeartKids Hillclimb event, the 40 race car drivers involved do two laps of the track with the fastest driver announced the winner.

After each race the competitors line their cars up and kids who ‘want to have a go’—and are big enough to use a seat belt—get to do a (slow) ride around the lap.

“They love the chance to sit in a race car,” says Daniel, who will also be racing.

What does his race car look like? It’s cool, and it’s black. William would be proud.

Canberra sponsors of HeartKids HillClimb 2015 are Tongue and Groove, Ox Eatery, Gus’ Café, The Hospitality Store, Duxton, Drive GHT.

The essentials

What: Heartkids Hillclimb
When: 9am to 4pm, Sunday 22 March
Where: Fairbairn Park Hillclimb Track — Sutton Road, Fairbairn
Cost: Free public spectator access
Web: www.facebook.com/HeartKidsHillclimb

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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