Maddie Delaney was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 2. When she was just 8, she had a six-hour spinal surgery to release built-up tension in her legs. She spent the next month in inpatient rehabilitation.
Now, Maddie is an energetic and funny 11-year-old.
Through Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s therapeutic recreation, Maddie and her family work with experts to use play and activities to better her health, abilities, and independence. And there is one unique member of her team — race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt is a big supporter of Nationwide Children’s and has visited the hospital five times over the past three years.
The first time he met Maddie, in 2014, they immediately hit it off. When Dale visits Maddie at the hospital, she loves beating him at video games. And, when she visits him at the racetrack, Maddie is Earnhardt’s biggest fan.
Earnhardt’s wife, Amy, has also befriended Maddie. Amy recently posted a photo of the two of them on social media saying, “This ‘lil girl holds a special place in my heart. Maddie, when you smile, I smile.”
Maddie has also become an important part of No. 88 Nationwide team. Her name has been featured on the race car, Earnhardt has worn special gloves in honor of her and Nationwide Children’s, and she stays up to date on all of his races. She’s even visited him at the race track when the NASCAR Cup Series raced at Kentucky Speedway in July.
The reality is that it takes expert research and care for Maddie to have that experience.
At Nationwide Children’s, Maddie and her family are able to access the care she needs. Because of leading research and top-notch staff, Maddie can just be a kid.