Rock Island Grand Prix to Honor Travis DeVriendt; Raise Suicide Awareness

Travis DeVriendt, Sherrard, heads down the straight away Sunday, August 31, 2014, in the 4-cycle race at the Rock Island Grand Prix

The Rock Island Grand Prix has announced that one of its premier races of the weekend – the Briggs LO206 Heavy class – will be run as the Travis “Turbo” DeVriendt Memorial Race in honor of long-time Quad-Cities racer Travis DeVriendt who died last March.

2015 Rock Island Grand Prix logoDeVriendt, of Sherrrard, Ill. who had raced at the Rock Island Grand Prix for 12 years and was a four-time winner at the street race, became a suicide statistic earlier this year. His parents, Ron and Darla DeVriendt, and the Grand Prix committee have chosen to use the tragedy as an opportunity to raise awareness about suicide in young adults.

The race is sponsored by Gett Industries of Milan, one of Travis’ sponsors, and is expected to be one of the largest fields of the weekend. He will also be remembered during Opening Ceremonies.

Travis was a 2007 graduate of Sherrard High School where he played football and baseball. He was a journeyman lineman working for locals here as well as in California, South Dakota and Minnesota.

“We are honored to carry on his memory and overwhelmed with the continued response from groups and individuals,” said Mrs. DeVriendt. “This was so tragic and such a shock to so many people in his line of work and in the racing industry — whether they knew him for 10 minutes are were friends for life. Travis lived life to the fullest.”

“He was a great kid. Nobody could have anticipated what happened to him. People said they never saw this happening to Travis, but it can happen to anybody,” she said.

The family has been selling t-shirts in an effort to end the silence about suicide and raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The t-shirts will be available at this year’s Rock Island Grand Prix for $20.  They can also be ordered online at http://shop.foxtailvinyldesign.com/t/travisdevriendt

“Out of tragedy many families have been brought closer together,” said Mr. DeVriendt. “Teens who knew Travis – even 12 to 16 year-old kids — are now talking to their parents in the last six months. They have grown closer to their parents and their parents closer to their kids as a result. Some good has to come out of it.” he said.

Travis was also an organ donor, his mother added.

The DeVriendts admit that the Rock Island Grand Prix weekend will be difficult but they plan to be there selling their shirts and sharing their message about the need for better suicide awareness.

Both encourage parents to stay in touch with their children – even when they are older – and live each moment to the fullest. “Some things just aren’t as important as they used to be” Ms. DeVriendt said.

“Many of these local racers have been racing together since they were 8 and now they’re young men. The Rock Island Grand Prix was always special for our family so it’s not going to be an easy weekend,” Mrs. DeVriendt admitted. “There will be a lot of friends, but it will be a roller coaster.”

The Rock Island Grand Prix is hosted by the Downtown Rock Island Arts and Entertainment District which features retail shops, excellent restaurants, live entertainment, dinner theater, art galleries and comedy clubs all within walking distance of the host hotel. Jumer’s Casino & Hotel is just a short drive away. Rock Island is located on the Mississippi River three hours west of Chicago in an area known as the Quad-Cities which straddles the river and the Illinois/Iowa border. It is at the intersection of Interstate highways 74, 88 and 80 and is served by Quad City International Airport in Moline, Ill. (www.ridistrict.com)

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