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After a Spinal Cord Injury, Former Drag Racing Champion Gives the Gift of Mobility to Children in Need

On Fridays here at the MLN Law blog we like to end the week with some good news. This week’s good news comes in the form of a Darrell Gwynn, a former champion drag racer whose life changed in 1990 when his dragster hit a wall and burst into flames. Gwynn was recently the topic of a Sports Illustrated story about how he has made the best of a bad situation – for himself, and for needy children.

Gwynn’s accident left him paralyzed from the chest down and caused his left arm to have to be amputated. In the Sports Illustrated article, Gwynn admitted that getting used to life at 6 mph instead of 300 led to some dark times through the years, but he found a way to go on through a passion for giving back.

“When I got hurt, there were a lot of people coming to the racetrack in really, really shoddy equipment, asking me questions that I couldn’t even answer, showing up in just the ricketiest vans and everything else,” Gwynn said. “So we thought we can probably help some of these people, and there’s a niche. There’s things we do that no other foundation does.”

What the Darrell Gwynn Foundation does is provide equipment and special services for children with injuries or illnesses that impair their mobility. The foundation also funds targeted research for people, especially children, with spinal cord injuries or other debilitating illnesses.

Motorized wheelchairs, special vans and other equipment necessary to provide a good quality of life for those injured or suffering from illness is costly, and often insurance companies find excuses not to pay. This was the case for 5-year-old Alyssa Hagstrom, a girl born with a rare muscle disorder. After insurance refused to pay for her motorized wheelchair, the Darrell Gwynn Foundation stepped in and provided her with a $26,000 wheelchair – and the gift of mobility.

The Darrell Gwynn Foundation participates in events where they present donated wheelchairs to injured or ill children in need. Some of Gwynn’s famous friends, like vaunted NASCAR racer Tony Stewart, get in on the act.

Of the Gwynn Foundation events, Stewart told Sports Illustrated: “There’s a lot of times you do charity events and money gets raised and you know what the amount that’s going to be donated is, and that’s kind of the end of it. But with Darrell’s foundation, every event you see a little boy or a little girl or a young person receive a new wheelchair and you see instantly the gratification on their face and knowing that the quality of their life is going to be better.”

For more about the Darrell Gwynn Foundation or to donate or participate in an event, visit the foundation website at