You can't tell by looking at him, but five-year-old Bricen Thall hasn't had the easiest life.
"Bricen was born with a disease called Hirschsprung's Disease," explained his mom Colby Thall. "He was diagnosed at five days old, he had surgery at one week. He had multiple surgeries for a while and at around 2 1/2, some complications became apparent and so we got referred to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. They have taken wonderful care of us since."
A few months ago, Bricen found out he had been chosen as the 2018 Nationwide Children's Hospital Patient Champion, getting the VIP treatment for the NASCAR races at Watkins Glen International this weekend.
"To bring them out for this day, to see the smile on his face when he got to see Alex and see his name on the car makes it all worth it," said NASCAR program leader for Nationwide, Todd Kubli. "But it's really a way for us to showcase what the hospital does. Bricen's from New York, the hospital is in Columbus. That shows the national spread of the hospital and helps kids from all over the country."
"Yeah, it's really cool," said Alex Bowman, the driver of the Nationwide number 88 car. "I've had a lot of great sponsors and partners over the years that allowed me to do things with Children's Hospital and stuff like that. To be together with Nationwide Children's Hospital is really cool. We got to visit the hospital this week, it was my third time up there second time this year. It's always just a really great feeling and put things in perspective.
When he got to meet Alex, Bricen's smile said is all. Bowman's car even has Bricen's named on it!
"I think his exact words were 'whoa!' said Colby Thall. "He was almost too excited, he just knows it's his name and the butterfly is the signature of the hospital so he knew that piece."
"Hendrick came to us and said we'd like to do something special for Bricen and put his name on the car," added Kubli It put the icing on the top, to have Bricen's name actually on the car which is something pretty rare for a young kid to have."
After what Bricen has been through, the Thall's are thankful for his recovery and this opportunity.
On top of hanging out with Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the rest of the number 88 team, Bricen will be right by the car during Sunday's driver introductions before watching the race on the perch just before the famed turn one.
Certainly a weekend Bricen will never forget.
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