NASCAR driver takes time to race robots with kids in Avondale

A NASCAR driver did a little racing with robots before hitting the track to make unforgettable memories for some children in the hospital at Phoenix Raceway.
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 10:01 PM MST
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AVONDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — A busy weekend of racing got underway on Friday evening at Phoenix Raceway with ARCA Menards Series racing. That will be followed up Saturday by NASCAR Xfinity Series racing that starts at around 2:30 pm.

Josh Williams is one of the drivers in Saturday’s race. On Friday, he took the time to race robots with a couple of Phoenix Children’s Hospital patients. But this is far from Williams’ first time giving back to those who might be going through challenging times. “I get to paint hands, have fun, and play with cool toys,” the Florida native said.

If you couldn’t tell, Williams is a kid at heart. And kids and robots are a match made in heaven. “It’s cool for them, cool for us,” Williams said. “I’m just really glad to be a part of it.”

Phoenix Children’s Hospital started using the Ohmni robots a few years ago as a way for kids to experience life outside the hospital. But Child Life Zone coordinator Steph Smith never pictured using the robots for something like racing on the inner oval of Phoenix Raceway. “I know the sky’s the limit,” Smith said. “But this is like beyond.”

It’s especially true as the pandemic has made it hard for face-to-face interaction. “I’m looking forward to seeing the cars and track,” one patient said. “And Josh.”

“It’s the lasting memories that the patients have, the families have,” Smith added. “Actually, the memories seem to be just as therapeutic as the experience itself.”

And not just for the patients. “I think I enjoy it more than they do,” Williams said. “I have so much fun. We do hand paints and things like that which we feature on our race car.”

And speaking of racing, Williams could maybe learn a few tricks from some of the patients. “I got spun out,” Williams laughed. “I didn’t even win the race. So hopefully that luck’s a little different this weekend here in Phoenix.”

But no matter what happens Saturday, Williams, Smith,and the patients all want what happened today to keep happening. “We’d love to continue this partnership,” Smith said. “We just feel like we’ve had the tip of the iceberg now, and we want to keep it going for years and years.”

“They’re going to remember it for a long time,” Williams added. “They’re going to be talking about it for the next few days, and get their mind off of whatever it is that they’re going through right now.”