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Minnesota race car driver makes appearance at Turtle Derby, donates winnings to children’s hospital

Seven years ago, Jason and Katie VandeKamp’s twin sons received NICU care at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. This summer, the family returned—this time to give back.
In June, Jason, Katie, Gavin and Parker VandeKamp brought their #Give16 dirt track race car to the Turtle Derby at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. Their volunteer role at the event is one of several ways this family is giving back to the hospital after receiving life-saving care.

Jason and Katie VandeKamp are no strangers to adrenaline.

In 2012, Katie was flown via helicopter from Fairview Lakes Medical Center to University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. 31 weeks pregnant with twin boys, she had entered labor early. Within hours of their arrival at the hospital, her sons Gavin and Parker were born.

Seven years after that harrowing event, the VandeKamps returned to University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital—this time as donors and volunteers. Jason is a longtime professional dirt track racer with more than 200 feature victories. On June 20, the family brought his racing car to the hospital’s 33rd annual Turtle Derby. During the event, wide-eyed kids sat in the driver’s seat and took photos.

Jason and Katie have long dreamt of giving back to the hospital, and the derby seemed like a perfect fit. Their twins were born a few days before the 2012 Turtle Derby. Jason recalls stumbling upon the event outside the hospital and wondering what the unusual sight was all about.

“It was really cool, and as a family who spent five weeks on campus and saw all those opportunities for the kids there, our motivation came from wanting to be even a tiny part of that,” Jason said.

In addition to taking part in the derby, the VandeKamps recently signed a pledge to raise $10,000 for the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio. Inspired by Jason and Carly Zucker’s #Give16 campaign, the VandeKamps are donating 16 percent of Jason VandeKamp’s race track winnings to their fundraising pledge.

Gratitude toward the hospital motivated them to get involved, the Vandekamps said.

After birth, their son Parker battled necrotizing enterocolitis, a severe and sometimes fatal disease that affects the digestive tract of infants. The VandeKamps credit an off-duty nurse for saving Parker’s life. Troubled by a nagging hunch, the nurse called her colleagues after hours and asked them to investigate, Katie said. That tip-off led to Parker receiving emergency care and a 14-day regimen of antibiotics that eventually halted the disease.

University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital is equipped with a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which offers the highest level of care for infants and families. Learn more about our services.

Now, Parker and his brother Gavin are energetic and healthy boys. Fraternal twins, the brothers “couldn’t be more different,” Katie said. Gavin is joyful and loves being the center of attention, while Parker is competitive, determined and athletic, the VandeKamps said. 

“The children’s hospital has always had a huge place in our hearts, and when we heard about the studio and the Zuckers’ #Give16 campaign, it was like a light bulb went off,” Katie says. “It couldn’t have fit any better, and being able to give back makes racing even more fun for us.”