Armed with the memory of his late grandfather and a desire to promote healthy living, Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon has joined the DRIVE4COPD campaign to raise awareness about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a serious and progressive lung disease that is the third leading cause of death of Americans.
DRIVE4COPD will serve as an associate sponsor of the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet driven by Dillon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and as a major associate sponsor of the No. 33 Honey Nut Cheerios Chevrolet driven by Dillon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in this year's Daytona 500.
"It means a lot to be able to work with DRIVE4COPD, a campaign of the COPD Foundation," said Dillon. "It's an honor to play a small part in helping to raise awareness about COPD and work towards improving the quality of people's lives."
COPD takes one life every four minutes and kills more people each year than breast cancer and diabetes combined. Dillon's paternal grandfather, Stan Dillon, passed away from COPD in May 2012, prompting the NASCAR driver to join the DRIVE4COPD health initiative.
"My Paw Paw was an outdoorsman his entire life but as his COPD progressed, he could do less and less. It made it really hard because we couldn't enjoy the outdoors together or do other active things," said Dillon. "It was tough watching my grandfather live with his illness and I know that other families are dealing with the same issues. Seeing the DRIVE4COPD initiative within NASCAR gives me hope that by raising awareness, I can help other families understand COPD and screen for the disease."
Currently, half of the estimated 24 million Americans who may be living with COPD remain undiagnosed. Dillon will play a role in encouraging all Americans aged 35 or older to log onto www.drive4copd.org/screener to take a brief, five-question screener to see if they might be at risk for COPD. If the screener indicates risk, patients are encouraged to take the next step and speak with their healthcare professional or call the C.O.P.D. Information Line (1-866-316-2673) to discuss what their score may mean. Because COPD is a progressive disease that causes irreversible lung damage, early diagnosis and disease management are critical to helping patients breathe better in the future.
"We are thrilled that Austin Dillon has joined the DRIVE4COPD team as its honorary ambassador," said John W. Walsh, COPD Foundation president and co-founder. "With Austin's support, we know we can reach people to promote early diagnosis as a means to slowing the progression of COPD."