Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and NASCAR teamed up Friday to visit local Chicago hospitals before taking their places at the starting line for this weekend’s NASCAR Chicago Street Race.
BCBSIL’s Blue Bear and professional NASCAR driver Harrison Burton, part of the Wood Brothers Racing Team, met with young patients at Lurie Children’s Hospital to hand out 30 bags and backpacks filled with ‘Speedy’ the NASCAR bear, coloring books and other toys.
“I really enjoy these events,” says Dominique Uzdzinski, whose daughter Andrea has been coming to Lurie for 11 years. “It’s nice to break up the monotony of things. This is the first time she’s been out of her room in a few days — she sprung right up when she heard (Burton) was coming.”
Families filled Lurie’s atrium, talking with Burton about the upcoming race taking place outside of BCBSIL’s Chicago headquarters July 1-2. BCBSIL is a founding partner of the event.
“We’ve been watching the setup for the race, and we’ve been talking about it a lot,” says Autumn Bogdan, whose sons Logan and Caden stood nearby with Burton’s autograph. “Now we know who we’re rooting for in the race.”
BCBSIL clinicians and leaders also visited Mount Sinai Hospital where they handed out and donated 125 blankets and toured the oncology department to meet with clinicians and spend time with patients.
“This sets the tone for what we’re trying to do in the community,” says Toni Johnson Wright, BCBSIL’s executive director of clinical operations. “Today was heartfelt. It was great to engage with patients and make a difference.”
BCBSIL donated $10K to both Lurie and Mount Sinai as part of the company’s longstanding commitment to investing in local health care.
Sinai Chicago President and CEO Dr. Ngozi Ezike (left), talks with Dr. Pam Grewal Khosla, chief of section of hematology oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital, and NASCAR driver Harrison Burton (right).
“We’ve always been a hospital that takes care of our communities’ most under-resourced patients,” says Dr. Ngozi Ezike, president and CEO of Sinai Chicago. “To be able to do that we need committed partners that see the purpose and utility of doing this work and helping us advance this powerful mission. We hope this is the beginning of a long relationship.”
For Burton, moving outside of his usual world of racing proved inspiring.
“All the patients, whether it was the kids or adults, they were positive and excited,” Burton says. “It’s great to see their energy and positivity through a situation that many of us wouldn’t be strong enough to mentally handle.”