Team Seattle: Racing for children

What happens when you combine sports car racing and a great cause? You get Team Seattle. Founded in 1997 by Don and Donna Kitch, Team Seattle is an endurance auto-racing team and a charitable organization consisting of sports-car racing enthusiasts and drivers. Their cause? The Pediatric Cardiology Unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital, one of the top- ranked pediatric medical facilities in the country.

For 17 years, Team Seattle has participated in 24 Hours of Daytona, an annual endurance race held on the last weekend of January and among the most grueling of its kind. Held at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, the race is run on a 3.56 mile road course for 24 consecutive hours. With an average of 675 laps, the total average distance during the event is almost 2,500 miles.

Before the race, donors pledge a dollar amount per lap that the Team Seattle car will make. Team Seattle utilized sponsors to offset the cost of the race, ensuring that personal donations go to charity. So far, Team Seattle has raised over $5.5 million for Seattle Children’s Hospital. “I’ve been around a long time, and now to be involved with something that really is good for mankind,” says racing team manager Alex Job, tapping his chest, “That’s right here. That means a lot.”

Job was not the only person impressed. This year, word of the organization spread to Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve Corporation and motorsports aficionado.  Don Kitch recalls how it happened: “He came out to my school with his new car to learn sport driving. He enjoyed what he learned, and continued to ask questions about the team until we sat down to have a meeting. That meeting was short and sweet, there was commitment right off the bat.” Newell offered his resources, and bought the Porsche GT America (valued at roughly $300,000) for this year’s race.

Newell sees the same values in Team Seattle as he did in his company. “Every once in a while, you have the kernel for a great idea; something that really ignites people or gets their imagination going, and challenges them to bring out their best.”

Kitch is ecstatic about this newly forged long-term partnership. “This is the partnership that Donna and I have been looking for since we started this guild 17 years ago and this is the most exciting thing I’ve ever been involved in my racing career.”

Don Kitch is beaming at the Jan. 15 racing team send-off event. With well over a hundred people attending, he says, “Tonight is about winning. There are a number of winners in this room, but at the end of the evening, the major winners are the kids.”