HAMPTON (WAVY) – A 10-time Langley Speedway champion in the modified division, Shawn Balluzzo it untouchable on the track.
In fact, two local business have put up a $1,000-bounty ($500 from each) to the first man who can beat Balluzzo. “There are guys close, but I don’t think there’s anybody who can beat us right now,” he said.
But these days, winning has taken on a new meaning.
His daughter Bryce, 21, was diagnosed with pediatric Leukemia two years ago, and endured the fight of her life. “(She) went through a whole bunch of different ailments, and she’s beat them all,” said Balluzzo.
Bryce spent 243 days at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughter, 180 of which was spent in intensive care. Her chemotherapy had devastating effects, including a fungal infection, heart failure, and the loss of her hair and motor function.
Through it all, she never lost her smile or her spirit, calling the ordeal “a long vacation…stormy vacation.”
She’s also maintained a sharp, snappy wit, and a wonderful sense of humor. Her dad, on the other hand, was ready to put racing in the rear-view mirror, given the amount of care his daughter required.
Bryce would have none of it.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to stop racing? Then, I’m not coming home,'” said Bryce.
The heart-warming gesture inspired her dad, and he’s kept the pedal to the metal ever since. “I knew it would really bother her to quit,” said Shawn.
Though her cancer is in remission, Bryce still has a long road ahead of her. She requires physical therapy almost daily, but doctors have told her she can make a full recovery.
In the meantime, she wonders if there’s any way her dad can go easy on the competition. She says watching her dad win so much sometimes “gets boring.”
Not for Shawn, especially when every trip to victory lane includes a facetime chat a smile from the fighter who’s inspired him.
“(Racing for Bryce) makes winning more fulfilling now,” he said.