Little feet will hit the street this Saturday, May 11 for the Salesforce & JPMorgan Chase 500 Festival Rookie Run. Before their races start, the rookie runners will be signaled by honorary flagman Graham, a patient at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at Ascension St. Vincent.
Graham had a tough start at birth. Mom Brandi said she noticed Graham was experiencing some delayed growth and development after birth. Graham’s family brought him to see Luis Escobar, MD, pediatric geneticist at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, at age 5. Graham hadn’t started walking yet according to his mom, and since he was about to turn 6, Brandi thought it best to get an opinion from a specialist.
Graham was diagnosed with an extremely rare IFIH1 gene mutation found in Aicardi Goutiere Syndrome and Singleton Merten Syndrome. Due to several physical disabilities, he has undergone multiple procedures and surgeries, and uses a walker and other assist devices that help him be as independent as possible.
Graham receives specialized care by a team of pediatricians at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. Mom Brandi has become very fond of her son’s care team. “They all work well together, and this makes it easier on us when we have to schedule multiple appointments.”
Graham doesn’t let his disabilities get in the way of being a normal kid. Graham is your typical 9-year-old. Mom says he is super funny and is a quite a jokester. He has quite the collection of knock-knock jokes that he can deliver with perfect timing. The youngest of four children, Graham also loves to make up stories. “He can come up with some of the most amazing stories.” He enjoys singing, listening to music, and following multiple popular kid channels on YouTube.
Waving the green flag for the race is an exciting moment for such a big race fan. His family eats, drinks and sleeps IndyCar during the month of May and beyond. Graham’s name was inspired by race car driver Graham Rahal, who participates in the NTT IndyCar Series.
Graham has met several race car drivers and even received videotaped get well messages from Rahal, Marco Andretti, and last year’s Indy 500 winner, Will Power after a big surgery last June resulting in several days in the hospital. Graham is also a huge Josef Newgarden fan and met the race car driver while in Phoenix before a race last year.
“We told Graham he was selected to be the honorary flagman for the 500 Festival this year, and he cannot be more excited. I joked with him about practicing his flag-waving skills and he just replied, ‘I think I got this mom.”
Graham will lower the green flag at the start of the Salesforce & JPMorgan Chase 500 Festival Rookie Run, which is part of the Salesforce & JPMorgan Chase 500 Festival Kids’ Day, a free event for families to celebrate the Month of May and the racing spirit in the city. All kids age 3-10 will compete in a non-competitive fun run that takes place in downtown Indianapolis.