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Hunter Young named 2023 Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award winner

Young was honored at 2023 Legends Luncheon presented by Nationwide, hosted by the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday

18-year-old Hunter Young of Orient, Ohio has been racing cars since the age of six. He began with Quarter Midget cars and transitioned to winged Sprint Cars at 13-years-old. He was practicing at the Jackson County Speedway on April 4, 2021, when his life took an unexpected turn.   

As Hunter began his practice laps, he felt something wet on his lower extremities. Thinking it was water from the wet track, he continued his laps until he started to feel hot. Once he finally made his way to the track exit and got out of the car, his brother, Aiden, was the first to reach him and immediately noticed flames coming out of his older sibling’s shoes. The wet sensation Hunter was experiencing was actually methanol, which burns clear, and flames are only seen when coming in contact with skin. Paramedics rushed to Hunter to help get him out of his fire-resistant gear and began treating him.  

Hunter was taken by MedFlight to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and then to Nationwide Children’s Hospital after doctors could not find a pulse in his feet. He suffered burns to his hands and the inside of his knees, but the most severe damage was done to his feet and ankles. Hunter spent over a month in the Burn Unit at Nationwide Children’s, where he endured more than 40 surgeries, fought infections, received skin grafts to aid in the healing of his feet and ankles, and worked hard to re-learn how to stand, walk, and climb stairs.   

Today, Hunter is back to racing but that is not all that keeps him busy. He spends more than 40 hours a week working on Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining, creating parts and drawing designs for cabinetry and race car parts. In 2021, Hunter went to his first Burn Camp in Colorado, a camp dedicated to kids who are recovering from burns. Along the way, he also found time to work with Ohio State Senator Bob Peterson to introduce Senate Bill 278, designating the first full week of February as “Ohio Burn Awareness Week.” In December of 2021, Hunter organized the first #HunterStrong Toy Drive, collecting and donating over 200 toys for the Nationwide Children’s Burn Unit. His 2022 collection resulted in the donation of more than 150 toys.  

“I am a burn survivor, but I will not let that limit me,” said Hunter. “This was just a chapter in my life and there is still a lot left to write.” 

Hunter’s unwavering optimism, driving determination, and his commitment to helping others is why he was honored with this year’s Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award. 

Jack and Barbara Nicklaus presented the award to Hunter at the 13th annual Legends Luncheon presented by Nationwide. This event, hosted by the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday, shines a bright light on the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and Nationwide Children’s Hospital alliance. The Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award honors the courage within that inspires volunteerism and community outreach, which has a positive influence on others. 

“The story of Hunter’s perseverance and the world-class care he received by Nationwide Children’s physicians and nurses who literally got him back on his feet are the ‘why’ behind Nationwide’s commitment to this hospital,” said Ramon Jones, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Nationwide.  

This year the event raised $1.4 million for the alliance, bringing the 13-year total to nearly $13.5 million. All proceeds of the Legends Luncheon directly benefit the young patients and families that Nationwide Children’s compassionately serves each day. 

Learn how you can support the work being done at Nationwide Children's Hospital.