Paramedicine Team from Kentucky Formally Inducted into Whelen Hall of Champions at NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte

Lexington Fire Department Community Paramedicine Team at induction ceremony in Charlotte, N.C. on January 21, 2023. The six-member team includes (front row, L to R) Detective Kristie Smith, Mackenzie Gross, CSW, Patrick Branam, and (back row, L to R) Lieutenant Ken Howell, Maria Slone, CSW, and Captain Seth Lockard.

Author: Sarah Guertin, Whelen Marketing

“Are you always like this?” I asked Firefighter Patrick Branam, after he cracked another dad-joke while we waited for our lunch order at Bojangles in the Charlotte International Airport. “Yes,” he replied matter-of-factly. “I see a lot of terrible things every day in my job. Life’s too short,” he said as we grabbed our food and joined the rest of the Lexington Fire Department Community Paramedicine Team, Whelen’s 2022 Everyday Champions, for a quick lunch before they boarded their flight back home to Kentucky.

As part of the team behind the scenes of the Everyday Champion program at Whelen, I had the good fortune to join our winners in Charlotte to see them get inducted into the Whelen Hall of Champions at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In addition to Firefighter Branam, the six-member team includes Fire Department Captain Seth Lockard, Lieutenant Ken Howell, Detective Kristie Smith, and licensed certified social workers, Mackenzie Gross and Maria Slone. The group strives to connect struggling community members with available resources.

“Our program is designed to be there for people that fall between that gap of being underserved,” said Lieutenant Ken Howell. “They don’t quite meet the criteria of needing 911 help right then, but how can we serve them and provide them resources,” he said. The Team’s work has been so well received that other communities are now reaching out for advice on how to start their own paramedicine programs.

“The type of work that they do can really drag on you. Everybody on that team wants to be there,” said Lexington Police Chief, Lawrence Weathers. “You see dedicated first responders, but these people are dedicated beyond that.”

NASCAR Hall of Fame tour with 2022 Everyday Champions and Whelen employees.

After spending just a couple of hours with the team, their dedication and commitment to their work was obvious. In between eating lunch and touring the NASCAR Hall of Fame they were communicating with others in Lexington, following up on cases, and talking to each other about all they had to do when they got back to Kentucky.

“We can help them find their why. Why are they struggling, what’s going on, what are the things that they need?” I heard Firefighter Branam say more than once during our time together. And he truly means it. The passion this team has for helping others is inspiring, and their energy is infectious.

The induction ceremony took place at the Hall of Fame’s High Octane Theater in downtown Charlotte. As we made our way to our seats, with the Team in full dress uniforms, one couldn’t help but notice the attention they drew from the crowd. The event began with a Q&A session with the audience and NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2023 inductees Matt Kenseth, Hershel McGriff and Kirk Shelmerdine. It was followed by a brief speech from Hall of Fame Executive Director, Winston Kelley, about Whelen’s history of involvement with NASCAR and the evolution of the Everyday Champion program, before he turned the mic over to Whelen’s General Manager of Motorsports, Peter Tiezzi, to introduce the Paramedicine Team, premiere the video we created about them, and present their Everyday Champion awards. After watching the moving video, it was easy for those in attendance to see why the Paramedicine Team deserved recognition as Whelen’s 2022 Everyday Champion, and the Team received a standing ovation from the crowd after accepting their Everyday Champion awards. Several people in attendance approached them after the ceremony to express their appreciation.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director, Winston Kelley (left), shares a few words about Whelen and the Everyday Champion program. The Paramedicine Team is shown here along with Whelen’s General Manager of Motorsports, Peter Tiezzi (right).

And while the induction ceremony was incredibly special, arguably the highlight might have been when an 8-year-old girl approached Detective Smith after the ceremony was over. As Detective Smith kneeled to speak with the young girl, the look of awe on the child’s face was a moment many of us will remember for a long time. To put it simply, the Paramedicine Team from Lexington is a force for good, inspiring and caring about others wherever they go.

The Paramedicine Team stops by to check out the newly updated exhibit inside the Whelen Hall of Champions and watch their video that‘s now part of the display.

The Whelen Hall of Champions exhibit inside the Hall of Fame now includes a photo of the Lexington Fire Department Community Paramedicine Team, along with a Lexington FD uniform that includes special nods to each member of the Team. Visitors to the exhibit can watch the video that was shared at the induction ceremony and learn more about how this year’s champions are working to make their community better. The exhibit also features the names of champions from every NASCAR national and touring series that have ever existed, from those that competed at top levels, to those who battled it out at their local weekend tracks.

It is a privilege for all of us at Whelen to have the opportunity to honor first responders like the Lexington Fire Department Community Paramedicine Team through the Everyday Champion program. We’re proud to serve those who serve others every day and play a role in keeping everyone safe. We might not be in the vehicle with them, but we are always there. As Detective Smith eloquently said to us, “Whelen has been with me my whole career. I’ve seen the name on my lights, the siren, and now I have a personal connection with you.”

To watch the video about this year’s winner that was shared at the ceremony and is now on display at the Hall of Fame, click the play button below.

You can read more about the Team in our previous post HERE.