September 29, 2022 by Peter B. Laird
Speedy Bear Brigade Brings Smiles to Children in Homestead Hospital’s ‘Speediatrics’ Unit
Some children grabbed the teddy bears and immediately clutched them in a strong embrace. Others reached out shyly when offered a bear, happy to have a new stuffed friend to hug, but still a little unsure about the circumstances.
The reactions were wide-ranging among children at Homestead Hospital who recently received a new teddy bear as part of The NASCAR Foundation’s Speedy Bear Brigade.
(Watch now: The NASCAR Foundation’s Speedy Bear Brigade brings smiles to children in Homestead Hospital’s “Speediatrics” Unit. Video by Dylan Kyle.)
To celebrate National Teddy Bear Day, Al Garcia, President Homestead-Miami Speedway, paid a visit to Homestead Hospital’s youngest patients in the Children’s Emergency Center to distribute NASCAR-themed teddy bears, aptly named “Speedy Bears.” The bears helped generate smiles and comfort among the children — not to mention their parents.
Mr. Garcia said he was happy to support the hospital, especially considering the challenges of the past few years. “This is an incredible asset in the city of Homestead. I’ve been making a living and working here since the mid-90s and I’ve seen the progression and the need for a facility like this in this community,” he said. “You guys are heroes.”
The Speediatrics Unit at Homestead Hospital – part of Baptist Health – is one of the NASCAR Foundation’s primary philanthropies. Also known as the Betty Jane France Children’s Emergency Center, it is the only 24/7 emergency center dedicated to children in the southernmost region of Miami-Dade County. The motorsports-themed unit receives regular visits from NASCAR drivers, and the Speedway sponsors annual toy drives and other initiatives to lift the spirits of sick children and their families.
The NASCAR Foundation has played a crucial role in the success of Homestead Hospital’s pediatric programs. Established at Homestead Hospital in 2002, the Speediatrics Children’s Emergency Center handles more than 25,000 patient visits a year. The unique unit is one of only two in the country founded by Betty Jane France, the late wife of NASCAR’s former chairman and CEO.
“We’re glad to have Homestead Miami Speedway and The NASCAR Foundation here with us at Homestead Hospital,” said Ana Cabrera, R.N., the hospital’s chief nursing officer. “It’s an honor to share a longstanding partnership with them in this community.”
This year’s annual Speedy Bear Brigade giveaway was the biggest to date, with nearly 70 hospitals participating in race markets across the United States and Mexico. More than 8,000 bears have been put in the hands of children in hospitals since the effort began six years ago.