Hamlin steps up to stand down cystic fibrosis

By Paul Woody (Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 19, 2012).

Before he even knew why, Denny Hamlin’s go-karts and stock cars carried a bumper sticker supporting the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis.

Now that he knows why — his cousin Kevin Jones, 33, suffered from cystic fibrosis until he had a double lung transplant — Hamlin is doing more than applying bumper stickers and logos to his car.

Hamlin is zooming in to make a difference.

Practically every professional athlete has a charitable foundation. Often, though, that foundation is nothing more than the mention in a sentence at the bottom of a biographical sketch in a press guide.

The foundation sounds good, but sits fallow.

If you want to make a difference, you have to step up and make a commitment.

Hamlin, the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, stepped up in a major way Wednesday.

He came to the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University and presented a big check to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis.

Hamlin pledged, over the next three years, at least $150,000.

“That’s the benchmark,” he said. “This is the minimum we can do for the next three years. We hope the Showdown is even more successful, and we can donate even more.”

The “Showdown” is the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown, held each spring on the Thursday at Richmond International Raceway as a precursor to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at RIR on Friday and Saturday nights.

The proceeds from the Showdown are a major funding source for the Denny Hamlin Foundation.

“I didn’t realize how close they are to a cure,” Hamlin said. “They just need some kind of spark, some new idea for someone to come with a cure.

“Who knows, maybe this will be the final $150,000 they need.”

Cystic fibrosis is characterized by a thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and can lead to life-threatening infections.

CF also affects the digestive tract. People with CF often have liver problems, have to eat more and take enzymes to help digest what they eat.

A lung transplant helps, but, “You still have to take medications to prevent rejection and still have to be monitored for infections in the lungs,” said Dr. Bruce K. Rubin, physician-in-chief, Jessie Ball DuPont Professor and chairman of the department of pediatrics at VCU. “It’s great, but it’s not the ultimate cure. And that’s what we’re working on.”

Hamlin’s money will be a great aid in that work. Each summer, $15,000 will fund two Denny Hamlin scholars who will be trained as cystic fibrosis investigators.

The remaining $35,000 each year will pay for research, training and collaboration with visiting professors.

The progress already made on cystic fibrosis is impressive. Once, the diagnosis in an infant was tantamount to a death sentence. With all the new therapies available, a child born with CF today can expect, on average, to live into his 50s.

“And we intend to change that so a child born today may even live a normal life,” Rubin said.

Still, life with cystic fibrosis requires an abundance of medication and, often, daily therapy.

“We’re striving to make it easier,” Rubin said. “And we’re striving to increase the length of days and health people have.”

Hamlin hopes his donation will help. Wednesday, he also helped in other ways.

He took a tour of the CF unit and made quite a few young friends.

Anthonie Whitt, 8 years old, posed for a picture with Hamlin.

“That was cool,” Whitt said.

No doubt about that. For Hamlin, it will be even cooler to see that by stepping up, he helped stand down cystic fibrosis.

Story at www.timesdispatch.com.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.