Friday, April 20, 2012
Denny Hamlin looked most comfortable during his visit to the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU this week when he was engaged with the patients in the Pediatric Pulmonary Center.
Chatting with and signing hats and toy cars for the children seemed to interest him more than the news cameras and interviews. Those cameras and interviews were certainly warranted, however, because behind Hamlin sat an oversized check addressed from his foundation to the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for $150,000.
Hamlin, FedEx #11 NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, presented the check on Wednesday, April 18, to help fund cystic fibrosis research and clinical trials for cystic fibrosis in Richmond.
“VCU is one of the country’s leading research centers for CF, and it is right here in our own backyard,” Hamlin said before the check ceremony. “I am honored to support such an outstanding organization with people who are making a difference in the world.”
Bruce Rubin, M.D., professor and chair of the VCU Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, is one of those people.
“I have been caring for children and adults with cystic fibrosis (CF) for more than 35 years and my laboratory has been studying CF and developing new therapy for over 25 years,” he said before the check ceremony. “This generous donation will help accelerate our ability to bring these therapies to our patients, and the newly established Denny Hamlin Foundation Summer Scholars program will help us train the next generation of CF research scientists.”
“The funding that comes from these types of gifts is the most precious thing to a researcher,” Rubin added after the ceremony.
Those funds will be paid in installments of $50,000 per year for three years and will support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Therapeutics Development Center, which conducts all phases of clinical trials for potential cystic fibrosis therapies.
Cystic fibrosis is a fatal genetic disease that affects about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). CF causes chronic infections in the lungs and inadequate digestion of nutrients. There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, but medical advances have doubled the life expectancy of children in the last 30 years and increased the overall median age of survival to 38.
Hamlin believes a cure is achievable.
“Maybe this will be the final $150,000 they need,” Hamlin said.
Because of family ties to CF, Hamlin began donating race winnings to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation when he started racing go karts as a child, very close to the same age as those that drew much of his attention away from the cameras this week.