IndyCar driver promotes organ donation, Click It or Ticket

The month of May in Indiana centers around one thing: The Indianapolis 500.

The 500-mile race around the 2.5-mile oval track has been dubbed the “great spectacle in racing.” May 27 will be the 102nd running of the historic race.

With all of the excitement in the air as the race draws closer, the Seymour Police Department recently was able to bring a Verizon IndyCar Series driver to the city in conjunction with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and Indiana Donor Network.

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Stefan Wilson, driver of the No. 25 Driven 2 Save Lives Andretti Motorsports car, made a stop in the city to help promote Click It or Ticket and the Indiana Donor’s Network’s Drive 2 Save Lives initiative to encourage organ donation.

The event was at Freeman Municipal Airport, where Wilson drove a course in a Seymour police cruiser and interacted with fans and the Indiana Donor Network set up an IndyCar race simulator.

Seymour Police Department Capt. Carl Lamb said the Indiana Donor Network contacted him because they knew about the course at the airport that the department sets up each fall for Rule the Road, a program where high school students drive the course to learn defensive driving.

“They thought it would be good for an IndyCar driver to go through the road course,” he said. “I thought, ‘What better way to promote seat belt awareness than with an Indy 500 driver in the month of May?’ It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Lamb took the opportunity to have Wilson help promote the Click It or Ticket initiative, which is in conjunction with the Indiana Criminal Institute and runs through Memorial Day.

He said Wilson gave the department a new way to promote the initiative to the public.

“It’s great because we have never had that opportunity before,” he said. “People probably get tired of us promoting seat belt awareness the same way over and over. This is a great way to promote it differently.”

Mike Kulig of Seymour attended to get a close look at Wilson. He said he and his wife and son are all fans of IndyCar racing and wanted to take the opportunity to see Wilson.

“I knew his brother, where I met him at the race track a few times,” he said after having his shirt autographed. “I figured I’d come out here. It’s pretty neat having an IndyCar driver this close to home.”

Jay Clark, also of Seymour, went to the event because he felt it was rare to have a driver come to the area.

“I think it’s great to have a driver here,” he said. “The fact that he came to Seymour is amazing because the drivers have so many commitments this month.”

Clark tried the IndyCar simulator and said he enjoyed the feeling of trying a hand at racing on the world’s most famous motor speedway.

“It was the first time I’d ever done one, and it was really cool,” he said. “I did it for a few minutes but can’t imagine doing that all day in a real race car.”

Wilson has a personal connection to organ donation. His brother, Justin, died on Aug, 24, 2015, as a result of injuries sustained during a Verizon IndyCar Series race in Pennsylvania.

Justin donated his organs, which saved five people’s lives.

“I’m proud of him for what he was able to do on the racetrack, but I’m mostly proud of who he was as a person and what he did as an organ donor to save five lives,” Stefan said.

When Stefan makes his second running in this year’s Indianapolis 500, there will be 25 names of people in need of organ donations on his car. He said having their names on the car makes the issue more personal.

“The idea was to give that figure (of people in need) and show there are real people waiting,” he said. “It’s easy to talk about everyone on the wait list as a whole, but I wanted to give that figure an identity, and by using the 25 names, that brings it to life and showcases who these people are and who’s waiting.”

The Indiana Donor Network lists 115,000 people across the country and 1,400 Hoosiers are in need of an organ donation.

The network also lists 10 people in Jackson County waiting on an organ donation.

Stefan said his sponsorship this year is more personal than any other one he has had before.

“It’s a really organic connection, and it’s so easy to talk about because it’s embedded in who I am now,” he said. “I’ve lived through that experience, and it’s not just a campaign, but it’s a personal connection, and it’s incredible that we get to take that message out.”

But he wants the story to be less about him and more about the people in need.

“We focused a lot on the story about Justin, but I wanted to look ahead and talk about the goal of organ donation,” he said of the promotions he and the network will do this month leading up to the race.

Stefan said Click It or Ticket shouldn’t be necessary because motorists should naturally want to wear their seat belts.

He said the situation is similar for him when he gets into an IndyCar and puts on a six-point harness to help keep him safe in the event of a crash.

“I wouldn’t dream of starting the engine before putting that harness on,” he said, adding the same should be applied to motorists using seat belts before they leave their destination. “Even in my road car, I feel naked without my seat belt. I can’t believe the statistics I was given about the number of people not using a seat belt.”

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How to become an organ and tissue donor:


Registration also may be completed at a Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch or by filling out a written donor registration form.

Organs that can be donated for transplantation include kidneys, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and small intestine. Tissues that can be donated include corneas, skin, heart valves, bones, veins and tendons.

Number of people waiting for organ donations:

Country, 115,000; Indiana, 1,400; Jackson County, 10

The maximum time from recovery to transplantation varies by the type of organ/tissue:

Kidney (48 to 72 hours)

Liver (six to 12 hours)

Heart (four to five hours)

Lung (four to six hours)

Heart/lung (four hours)

Heart valves (10 years)

Pancreas (six to 12 hours)

Small intestine (six to 12 hours)

Skin (two years)

Bone (five years)

Cornea (seven days)

Tendons (two years)

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Click It or Ticket

Now through Memorial Day

Number of agencies across Indiana participating: 240

The Seymour Police Department will participate in an initiative where police will be watching for unrestrained drivers and passengers.

Overtime pay for officers during the program is paid for by a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and administered by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

Seat belt tips

  • Secure the lap belt across your hips and pelvis, below your stomach
  • Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and rib cage, away from your neck
  • Never put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm
  • If your seat belt doesn’t fit you or you have an older car with lap belts only, ask your dealer or vehicle manufacturer about seat belt adjusters, extenders or retrofits.