Nationwide Series points leader Austin Dillon will join NASCAR and official partner DRIVE4COPD to kick off COPD Awareness Month (November) in an effort to help raise awareness of the debilitating lung disease.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. DRIVE4COPD has been the official health initiative of NASCAR since 2010.
An honorary ambassador for DRIVE4COPD, Dillon has seen the devastating effects of the disease firsthand.
"My grandfather had COPD; I saw him live with it for a long time," Dillon said. "He wanted to come to most of my races, but it was tough. He had to carry an oxygen tank when he did come to the races. He came to Rockingham before he passed away and got to watch my brother (Ty) race. That was pretty cool."
Stan Dillon, father of Mike Dillon (Richard Childress Racing vice president of competition), and grandfather of NASCAR drivers Austin and Ty Dillon, passed away in May of 2012.
"He was a big outdoorsman," Austin Dillon said. "He taught my dad how to race. He built my dad's dirt bike and took him on the road. He taught me about different ways of building things. He was really good ? a really artsy guy who built choppers and stuff, really cool bikes. I've actually got one of the pictures of bikes he built. He was great with a torch, metal arc (welding).
"I've got a lot of his stuff, different pictures of him at the barn. His urn is actually at my house."
In addition to Dillon, others who have helped promote the DRIVE4COPD cause include fellow NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, country music star Patty Loveless, Olympian Bruce Jenner and former NFL standout Michael Strahan.
Dillon said he and his grandfather talked about the disease and its effects. "He told me what he had, about the shortness of breath, the coughing, tightness in the chest," he said. "Being around him, that just stunk because he was such a big outdoorsman, loved to play around. And he loved to dance -- actually he was head of a shag club ? it was pretty bad when he could no longer do that stuff."
Dillon, who is also involved with the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma, has made appearances throughout the year to help raise awareness of COPD and the need for screenings.
"It's all about awareness," he said. "It's the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and kills more people than breast cancer and diabetes together. It's pretty big and something that I don't think people know much about as far as what you need to know and getting screened and how that can help."
DRIVE4COPD has been responsible for screening more than 2.7 million fans since it launched. For more information, see www.DRIVE4COPD.org.
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