Racing Community Rallies for Al Robinson
Sometime fate brings people together by Carol Houssock
Two years ago longtime motorsports announcer and journalist, Al Robinson, suffered a massive stroke. Since May of 2011 he was been residing in a Tioga County, NY nursing home, but proving every day that the human spirit can work wonders in one’s recovery. Al has come a long way. And his hopes of a return to his own home are more of reality, thanks to some great friends….and a bunch of people he doesn’t know.
Case managers at the nursing home conducted a home visit and developed a list of modifications that would have to be completed at his home before he could safely return there. Al’s longtime friend and fellow motorsports veteran, Jim Burleigh, installed grab bars and made many other required changes.
Carol Houssock, who has been filling in for Robinson as co-announcer at Shangri-la II Motor Speedway, is also the Director of the Chemung Volunteer Action Corps. When she and Burleigh spoke recently about Al and his possible return home, he told her there were a couple major items still on the “to do” list and beyond his capability. One of those would have to be done by a plumber while the other was the construction of a ramp at Al’s house.
Carol mentioned the “ramp guys”, a group of Chemung County volunteers from her program who build portable access ramps. All the homeowner has to do is pay for the materials and the labor is free. Carol put a plan in place, and the volunteers agreed to cross county lines to see if it might work out. Based on his sketch, the lead volunteer estimated the cost of materials at $600.
During the May 5th Race of Champions event at Shangri-la, Houssock appealed to the racing community for help. “We have the volunteers; all we need is the $600 for materials. After two years in a nursing home, it’s time for Al to go home,” she told the crowd. Betty Sherwood, President of the Spalding Foundation for Injured Drivers, agreed to collect any money donated that day. By the time the last checkered flag fell, the racers and fans at the track had donated nearly $900.
One large contributor and former racer said “I don’t know the man, but he’s been around racing all his life, and that’s good enough for me.” Many other contributors don’t’ know Al, but many others do. Another volunteer came forward that same day. “A contractor was at the race, heard we needed some plumbing work, and he offered his labor at no cost,” Burleigh stated. Two others in attendance that day took care of the required building permit. The money raised that day, from the racing community, covered both the plumbing work and the ramp for Al’s home.
On Monday, June 3rd, the “ramp guys” met at Al’s home and completed the ramp according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications. Before they left, Al tried it out and is eager to use it on a regular basis. “I’m on target to go home at the end of the month, and I’m very grateful to everyone who has helped me,” Al stated.
Everyone just did what the racing community always does...help each other when needed. And Al needs to know that the racing community is grateful to him - for his wit, his wisdom, his courage and his talent.