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Grateful parents on track to help babies and their moms

Devlin DeFrancesco hugs his dad, Andrew, before a recent race.

Doug Nicholson/MediaSource/Sunnybrook

The Donors: Andrew and Cathy DeFrancesco

The Gift: Raising $400,000

The Cause: Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

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The Reason: To help finance the hospital's Women & Babies Program

When Devlin DeFrancesco was born he had little chance of living. He weighed only one pound, he was 15 weeks premature and his eyes were fused shut.

"He was given last rights by our priest," recalled Devlin's mother, Cathy DeFrancesco. "It was the worst experience of my life."

Somehow Devlin survived and thrived. Now 12, he is a healthy boy and an elite go-kart racer. "He is a miracle, an absolute miracle," said Ms. DeFrancesco.

She and her husband, Andrew, credit the doctors, nurses and staff at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre for saving their son. "It was just the way they took care of my child and the way they took care of me," she said.

The DeFrancescos wanted to do something in return to demonstrate their gratefulness. Given Devlin's success in kart racing they decided to organize a fundraising event that included the sport. The result was the Bay Street Grand Prix, a day of kart racing on July 5 held in conjunction with the Honda Indy.

The event, which included an after-race concert, attracted roughly 800 participants and raised more than $400,000 in total. The money will help support the hospital's Women & Babies Program which provides specialized care for mothers and their babies.

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"A lot of people don't really do go-kart racing," said Ms. DeFrancesco. "So some were a little bit hesitant at first." Not any more. The event was such a success the family is planning next year's race.

The DeFrancesos now live in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Mr. DeFrancesco runs a private equity firm called Delavaco Capital Inc. and Devlin pursues his racing career.

But they return to Toronto frequently and have been involved in other fundraising initiatives at Sunnybrook. "You are forever grateful," said Ms. DeFrancesco. "Next year we want to do even more."

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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