On Thursday, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, his wife Amy and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick came to Nationwide Children's Hospital to participate in a special dedication ceremony in the hospital's rehabilitation unit.
The trio helped Nationwide Children's and Nationwide officials unveil the newly-named "Dale and Amy Earnhardt Activity Room." In January, Nationwide Children's and Nationwide announced they would re-name the room as a unique gift in recognition of the couple's recent marriage.
After the dedication ceremony, the Earnhardts spent time with some of the patients, who are working to regain or improve their functional abilities.
"Having this room named after Amy and me means we will forever be personally connected to the hospital," said Earnhardt. "It's a room of joy and happiness, and Amy and I are so thankful to the hospital and Nationwide for giving us this amazing gift."
This visit was the first to the hospital for Hendrick. The hospital presented the NASCAR Hall of Fame car owner with a gift as well: a hospital wagon dedicated to Hendrick Motorsports with the inscription "A new set of wheels for a winning team!" The wagons are used by patients and families to help transport their belongings from room to room during a hospital visit or stay.
"I'm blown away. Until you walk in to the NCH you don't realize how broad and deep it is," said Rick Hendrick. "It's amazing to see the work these talented people are doing. I think Ohio and the whole country are blessed to have a hospital like this."
The visit is the latest opportunity to showcase how Nationwide, Earnhardt and Hendrick have partnered to show support for Nationwide Children's. This past January at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt and Chevrolet auctioned a pair of cars: a No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS that raced in 2014 and 2015, and a 1970 Chevelle co-designed by Dale Jr and Chevrolet. The sale of the two vehicles raised $400,000, with all proceeds benefiting the hospital.
"The research and clinical care at Nationwide Children's improves the lives of children and their families everywhere, and we treat patients from all 50 states and nearly 50 countries," said Jim Digan, president of Nationwide Children's Hospital Foundation. "Dale Earnhardt Jr. and The Dale Jr. Foundation, Mr. Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports, and Nationwide are collectively helping us raise funds and— just as important—awareness for the hospital. We are so grateful for their thoughtfulness and generosity with their time."
For the second straight year, Nationwide, the primary sponsor of the No. 88 team and a long-time benefactor of the hospital, will dedicate one of the company's paint schemes to Nationwide Children's. The hospital's logo and signature butterflies will be on Earnhardt's No. 88 Nationwide Children's Hospital Chevy SS during the July 8 race weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
"Nationwide is thrilled to have Dale Jr., Amy and Rick Hendrick here to celebrate the room dedication and the patients who will benefit from it. It means a lot to those facing challenges to know that there are people who care and support their recovery," said Terrance Williams, chief marketing officer for Nationwide. "We all wish Dale Jr. the very best as he enters retirement and are thankful that he and the No. 88 team are so willing to help shine a national spotlight on the hospital and the life-changing work they do."