PAINESVILLE, Ohio (WJW) — A birthday wish and lifelong dream came true Thursday night at the Painesville Speedway in Lake County, as 29-year-old Charles DeCapua put the pedal to the metal for the very first time.
DeCapua was born with cerebral palsy, and other challenges, and has spent most of his life in a wheelchair, but loves fast cars and motorsports.
“All I’m thinking about is driving that car,” said DeCapua as he arrived with his family and friends at the track on Fairport Nursery Rd.
According to his mother, Dina DeFilippo, Charles learned how to drive, but hurt his back and hasn’t been able to ever since.
So seeing him lifted into the car was emotional for everyone.
“I’m gonna start crying,” said Dina, “We’re so exited and nervous at the same time.”
The Trans Am was built by Charles and his father John DeFilippo and named Frankenstein or Frankie, because it contains parts from different model years.
“We’ve done everything on this car together, everything on this car, we built this car literally from the ground up,” said John.
It actually took 1st place at AutoRama one year and 3rd at a different show and can reach speeds of 140 mph.
Charles started out slow, but after a few warm up laps he was doing burnouts and flying around the track, as his loved ones cheered him on and also choked back the tears.
“I’m (pause) speechless,” said Dina, “I’m proud of both my children, but this is amazing.”
A neighbor actually put the family in contact with The Painesville Speedway, who opened it up for free and even awarded Charles the checkered flag, and a trophy in the winners circle.
“His family came to us with the idea and it seemed really cool, we love to make peoples’ dreams come true,” said Randy Maggio, Jr. “It was awesome, he was a champ.”
Sitting behind the wheel, as the night came to an end, Charles was extremely grateful and smiling from ear to ear.
When asked what his favorite part was he replied, “Going over 35 (MPH) an hour.”
When asked if this was his best birthday ever he said, yes, but then wanted to make a wish for everyone else too.
“I want to tell every person that is disabled, please do not be afraid to achieve your dreams, whether it’s driving on the race track, rock climbing whatever, if you want to do it, go for it,” said Charles.
And Charles has no plans of slowing down.
He runs a successful Facebook group called “Third Gen F-Bodies Worldwide” with nearly 17,000 members located around the world from Switzerland to Japan. He says he’s going to keep pursuing his dreams and hopes others will too.