Robert Van Acker has been around racing all his life. He started drag racing on road courses throughout the U.S. and continued racing as an adult.
His uncle, Charles, entered the Indianapolis 500 five times and started three times from 1947 to 1949. Robert remembers going to the 500 as a young man and meeting famed drivers, spending time in garages and continually learning more about the sport.
Robert introduced his wife, Anna, to racing shortly after they married in 1998. “She loved the thrills that a fast car provided,” he said. “I took her to her first go-kart race in Talladega and she said, ‘I love this.’” Anna was intimately involved in racing as a go-kart competitor and fan for 35 years.
Anna died in May 2021 at age 55 from complications after heart surgery. She was a registered organ donor.
Her life will be honored at the 74th annual Lucas Oil Little 500 at Anderson Speedway May 28. NASCAR star and Daytona 500 champion Ryan Newman is among the entrants. He’ll be driving the Driven2SaveLives car sponsored by Indiana Donor Network, which will bear Anna’s name to honor her decision to register as an organ donor.
“The Little 500 is a prestigious, bucket list race that I’ve always wanted to race in,” said Newman, a South Bend, Indiana, native. “Raising awareness for organ donation while getting to enjoy my passion for open wheel racing is equally exciting for me. I’m even more excited to get to honor someone on my car who said ‘yes’ to donation.”
Robert is a registered organ donor, too. The Van Ackers of Mishawaka were married for 20 years and made the decision to register together. Robert remembers talking with Anna about her decision and what it meant to her personally.
“She always thought giving the gift of life was the greatest thing someone can do,” Robert said. “She loved music, owls and roses. She loved cooking and attending her club functions. But more than anything, she just loved people and would do anything she could to help anyone any time.”
Indiana Donor Network’s mission is to save and enhance the quality of life through organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation. Its vision is to be a leader in organ and tissue recovery. Founded in 1987, the organization coordinates donations in 85 of the state’s 92 counties and serves transplant hospitals throughout the U.S.
Indiana Donor Network PR