NASCAR's Gordon lobbys for Marrow Donor Program

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 16, 2008 

WASHINGTON — NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon competed Tuesday in a different kind of race — in the competition for federal dollars.

The four-time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion was in the nation’s capital lobbying for funding for one of his favorite causes, the National Marrow Donor Program.

Gordon said his concern with blood diseases dates back to the early 1990s when his then-crew chief, Ray Evernham, learned his son had leukemia.

Later, team owner Rick Hendrick was diagnosed with the blood disease too.

"We want to encourage Congress to support that program," Gordon said at a Capitol Hill reception organized by Rep. Robin Hayes, a Republican from Concord. “We want to make sure we’re maximizing the money that’s set aside because it’s not just automatic that it’s there.”

The program is authorized to get $15 million a year to collect and store samples of blood used to make bone marrow matches, but that doesn’t mean Congress actually appropriates that amount every year. Last year, it got $12 million, and the year before, $9 million, said Dr. Jeffery Chell, chief executive officer of the program.

For patients of some illnesses, finding a donor match for a bone marrow transplant is the only chance for long-term survival.

Gordon’s foundation helps the marrow program and other charities that assist children.

"I’ve been able to live out my dreams and I want other kids to be able to live out their dreams," Gordon said, after flashing a photo of his young daughter.

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