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Michael Annett joins St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in racing to save lives

Michael Annett
Michael Annett

The No. 62 Pilot Flying J race team and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett are pleased to announce a unique partnership with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of the world's premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic childhood diseases.

In addition to a race-related initiative for the five remaining Nationwide Series races in the 2011 season, Annett is excited to dedicate St. Jude as his choice charity.

Beginning with Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway, the St. Jude logo will be featured onboard Annett's No. 62 Pilot Flying J Toyota Camry to honor patients of the pediatric cancer research center. Each week for the next five weeks, a St. Jude patient story will be highlighted through Annett's special promotion.

In addition to adorning Annett's Rusty Wallace Racing Toyota with the hospital's decal, fans and members of the racing community can visit to contribute to the "Racing to Save Lives" campaign in support of St. Jude's mission of finding cures and saving children. The hospital is unique because families never pay St. Jude for treatment and St. Jude covers the cost of food, travel and lodging for patients and a family member.

J.D. Peeples, director of sports marketing for ALSAC, the fundraising organization for St. Jude, noted, "We are thrilled about the opportunity to partner with Michael Annett and the No. 62 Pilot Flying J race team to raise awareness and funds to benefit the lifesaving work that is happening at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Thanks to the support of partners like Pilot Flying J, St. Jude has been successful in pushing the overall survival rates of childhood cancer from 20 percent when the hospital opened in 1962 to 80 percent today. We can't thank Michael and the Pilot Flying J team enough for helping us share our St. Jude patient stories each week with the NASCAR community and all of the sport's dedicated fans."

Annett commented, "My sponsor, Pilot Flying J, introduced me to St. Jude a few years ago at the annual St. Jude 500 dinner at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and I've been a supporter of their cause ever since. Once I learned more about their mission and heard testimonies from patients and their families, I knew I wanted to do all I could to help," said Annett, "Our sport provides us with a great platform to promote charitable initiatives like St. Jude, so we came up with this new initiative to showcase their cause weekly on our race car."

On Monday, Annett made a special visit to the Memphis, Tenn.-based pediatric cancer research center to meet and greet with St. Jude patients. The 25-year-old driver signed autographs for the children who call St. Jude home, and left t-shirts from his merchandise collection at the hospital for patients currently undergoing treatment.

"I felt a sense of urgency and excitement when I received the information about the opportunity to work with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Spending time with the children there made me realize even more how much patients and families like these need our help, and how in my role as a NASCAR driver I have the perfect opportunity to share this with others. I know in my heart that St. Jude is a cause I want to do everything I can to support. I encourage race fans and everyone in the motorsports community to do their part to help by visiting," said Annett.

The Racing to Save Lives program will launch this weekend at Kansas Speedway with nine-year-old St. Jude patient Ryan Christian attending the race as a special guest of Annett and the No. 62 Pilot Flying J team.

When she was seven years old, Ryan began having headaches, seizures and dangerously high blood pressure. The local hospital ran tests, and in February 2010, scans revealed a mass. The malignant tumor originated in Ryan's adrenal gland and extended up toward her heart and lungs. This type of cancer, called adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC), is extremely rare. Only 20 to 25 children in the United States are affected each year.

Ryan's tumor was removed, and during her recovery, her parents researched treatment options. The family learned that St. Jude had developed a special treatment plan for patients with ACC. They obtained a referral. At St. Jude, Ryan received eight rounds of chemotherapy. Now she returns to St. Jude for checkups. Her parents, Jeff and Dorie Christian, love St. Jude and believe this caring hospital has given Ryan her best chance for survival.

The Dorie family resides in Blue Springs, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City. Ryan has an impressive array of interests. Her dad, Jeff, is a retired NHL player, and Ryan has talent on the ice as well. She's an accomplished ice skater, an award-winning artist and an avid animal lover.