An online auction of sporting memorabilia donated by celebrities and athletes from around the world has succeeded in raising $627,203 for the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund, the organisers have announced.
"We're beyond floored with the outpouring of love you have all shown!" the organisers said on their official Twitter account. "Couldn't have done it w/out you all! Words can't express our gratitude! ... Every little bit helped and will make a difference for the family!"
On his personal Twitter account, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal added: "I cant thank you all enough for your support of the Wheldons. It means the world to see all of you rally around and support them like this!
"It has been a huge joint effort of lots of people to make this happen, but when it all started I never thought this would be possible," he said, finishing off with: "Seriously in shock at the amount we raised ... Thnx."
The total only includes the items sold through the auction, and does not include any other non-auction donations otherwise contributed directly to the trust fund, which will be used to support the Wheldon family including the raising and education of his two young sons, Oliver and Sebastian.
Wheldon's wife Susie said in a statement that: "From the very beginning, I have been so overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy and the unwavering support of Dan's friends, his fans and from the racing community
"When Graham reached out to me with the auction total today, I was very touched by everyone's generosity. I want everyone to know how grateful I am and how much I appreciate everyone's kindness and their love.
"It means the world to our family, and I hope one day to personally thank all those who donated and purchased the auction items."
The idea for an auction was sparked off by Graham Rahal in the days following the tragic events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16, in which Dan Wheldon lost his life.
Rahal, who had been driving in the race when the 15-car accident took place, announced soon afterwards on Twitter and Facebook that he planned to auction off his helmet, shoes and gloves from the Las Vegas race in order to donate the proceeds to Wheldon's family through the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund.
Word quickly spread and personalities from the sports and entertainment world were soon donating dozens of items for Rahal to auction off, to the point where it rapidly outgrew Rahal's ability to handle it alone. The auction was taken over by eBay, which waived all fees, and by management agency Auction Cause, with all proceeds going to the family trust fund.
The initial auction period closed some weeks ago, but inevitably some winning bidders dropped out of paying and unsold items were put back on auction. However, this week organisers confirmed that all items had been sold and everyone had now paid up, allowing them to announce the final total.
Among the auction items sold were: a #77 Dan Wheldon Indianapolis Colts jersey signed by Colts players; memorabilia from Tour de France winning cyclist Lance Armstrong, MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden, NBA star Dwight Howard, tennis legend Billie Jean King, actors Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett and professional surfer Kelly Slater.
Also sold were a New York Giants NFL helmet signed by Eli Manning; a two-seat Grand-Am Daytona Prototype ride from Mike Shank Racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; and many race items donated by IndyCar and NASCAR drivers including five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson - and of course the helmet, shoes and gloves from Graham Rahal that started the whole endeavour in the first place.
Donations to the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund can still be made online through the Dan Wheldon Memorial website