By Mark Ambrogi
Children’s TherAplay staff figured IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson would be a perfect teammate for Yerick Colon for the second annual Horsepower 500.
Yerick, who has the ataxia and dystonia forms of cerebral palsy, has struggled with his grief over losing a therapy dog, Dorian, in September, and then his physical therapist, Jen Grillo, who died in a car accident in November.
“Losing those two were so hard for him,” said his mother, Rossy Flores.
Wilson’s older brother, Justin, suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was struck in the head by large debris from another car during a race at Pocono in August 2015. He died the following day.
“One of the questions we asked Stefan is if he would be willing to share his loss with Yerick,” said Shannon Wade, TherAplay marketing programs manager. “You can see Stefan has a huge heart for the kids.”
The fundraiser pairing Indy 500 drivers with TherAplay patients is set for at 3 p.m. May 9 at Children’s TherAplay, 9919 Towne Rd., Carmel. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger. Children 2 and younger are admitted free. TherAplay is an outpatient rehabilitation clinic for children with special needs. One facet is its hippotherapy, which uses equine movement as therapy. Hippos is the Greek word for horse
The Indy 500 drivers ride adaptive tricycles and the children partners put a carrot in their mouth for the final leg of the race. Wilson and Yerick are on Team Rocky, representing TherAplay’s popular therapy horse.
Yerick, a sixth-grader at North Wayne Elementary School in Indianapolis, will turn 13 May 4. Since TherAplay is for children 13 and under, Yerick will graduate the week of April 10.
The staff wanted to give him a special surprise, so they asked Wilson if he would ask Yerick in person to be his partner. He then joined Yerick for his hippotherapy session and other exercises.
“Just going through it a little myself, I can say, ‘Wow, this is a bit of a workout,’” Wilson said. “It’s definitely challenging work for the handlers and the patients.”
Flores said Yerick started at TherAplay when he was 3 years old. He left for a few years to take aquatic therapy.
“He’s doing amazing,” Wilson said of Yerick. “From the time I’ve been around the organization, I can see how much good work it does and how much it helps families.”