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Popup Blue Door Neighborhood Center near Buckingham Fountain at the NASCAR Chicago Street Race

BDNC at NASCAR Chicago Street Race Helps Fans Roll With Wild Weather

Blue Door Neighborhood CenterSM employees rolled with Mother Nature’s punches, working in stifling heat and humidity followed by monsoon-like downpours to engage with fans who braved the conditions to attend the inaugural NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend.

Their BDNC pop-up site constructed near the racetrack provided a glimpse into the resources provided at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois’ three Blue Door Neighborhood Center (BDNC) locations in Morgan Park, Pullman and South Lawndale. But it also served as a shelter that could accommodate groups of people seeking relief from punishing weather conditions on July 1 and 2.

NASCAR fans walk through a downpour at the Chicago Street Race

The pavilion became an oasis for dozens of racegoers in need of refuge from daylong, torrential storms that delayed the July 2 NASCAR Cup Series street race. BDNC employees made the most of the opportunity, handing out bags of sunscreen and ear plugs while greeting dozens of soaked, die-hard race fans who waited for the rain to subside. They ran out of much-coveted rain ponchos during thunderstorms the night before.

“We quickly adjusted to meet the needs of attendees,” says BDNC Director Laron Taylor. “We use the same principles of engagement at the Blue Door Neighborhood Centers. When we see a need, we adjust and meet it. In this case we became a storm shelter while providing health and wellness education.” 

Fans take shelter in the pop-up Blue Door Neighborhood Center

Race fans take shelter in the pop-up Blue Door Neighborhood Center. 

On the first day of the event, grueling heat and humidity forced streams of race spectators into the pop-up, where electric fans cooled the air. Race fans played games and received health and wellness education from BDNC employees as they recovered.

But the unforgiving conditions could not deplete GiGi Tonye’s energy as she led a Zumba demonstration in front of the pop-up. The exhibition was one of several activities lined up to connect with the crowd. Tonye, founder and CEO of GiGi Tonye Arts & Fitness, often holds free fitness classes at BDNCs.

Her demonstration was an example of how BDNCs partner with community organizations to address needs, including health and wellness education, free fitness courses, financial literacy and job training.

African American woman with microphone encourages NASCAR fans to join excercises.

GiGi Tonye encourages NASCAR fans to join an exercise activity. 

“The Blue Door Neighborhood Centers are very important for us because they help us establish trust in our communities,” says BCBSIL President and CEO Stephen Harris.

“Once we're able to build trust, we're able to have good conversations about what it means to manage your health and your conditions," Harris says. "They’ve been met with nothing but open arms from folks within the neighborhoods."

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