James Hinchcliffe and American Red Cross - Indiana Chapter Board Chairman Larry Delia

INDIANAPOLIS – James Hinchcliffe knew he would feel honored and humbled on Thursday as the newest inductee into the American Red Cross Indiana Region Hall of Fame for his unending mission to encourage people to donate blood.

What the INDYCAR driver wasn’t prepared for was the flood of emotions he felt when surprised by Red Cross officials who arranged for some of the donors who helped save Hinchcliffe’s life in 2015 to attend the ceremony.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver sustained life-threatening injuries in a crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500 in May 2015. Only through the quick efforts of the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team and the IU Health Methodist Hospital medical staff was his life saved. A crucial part of the process was the 22 units of blood that Hinchcliffe received.

James HinchcliffeBlood donors typically remain anonymous, but on this special day, Red Cross officials arranged for a pair of active military Marines – Brodey Casebolt from California and Elmer Drake from Michigan – to record a video thanking Hinchcliffe for being a staunch supporter of blood donation. Then a pair of college students from Michigan – Madelynn Guerra of Detroit and Madison Mowry of DeWitt – were welcomed to the stage to meet a teary-eyed and unprepared Hinchcliffe.

“I’ve always just kind of thought of those 22 units (of blood) as a group and never really as individuals,” Hinchcliffe admitted. “That really kind of humanizes the whole thing for me. … I can’t thank you all enough. This is all because of you.

“To see two of them in person, there really aren’t words. I can’t thank everybody at the Red Cross enough for making that happen because it’s incredibly special.”

In turn, the Red Cross thanked Hinchcliffe for becoming such a strong advocate for blood donation by inducting him into the Indiana Region Hall of Fame. The 32-year-old Canadian has been a Red Cross spokesperson since his recovery and this year hosted blood drives at five Verizon IndyCar Series racetracks. His goal is to have a #HinchcliffeHundred blood drive at every race in 2019 and eventually a mobile blood unit dedicated to being at every race and other events.

Hinchcliffe admitted he was ignorant to the critical year-round need for blood donations until after his accident. It angered him and made him determined to do something about it.

“We need every single donation,” he said. “I was so angry at myself for not realizing that and to have something like (the crash) have to happen to me to really understand. That’s the day that I decided I wanted to make sure that other people didn’t have to go through what I went through or have a loved one go through what I went through, or something similar, to really understand the problem.”

While the safety team and doctors and nurses who treated Hinchcliffe have drawn plenty of justified praise for their roles in saving his life and setting him on the road to full recovery, he’s just as grateful to the unsung heroes who donated blood – who until Thursday were anonymous to him.

“If that blood wasn’t there for me to get, these guys couldn’t have put it in me and I wouldn’t be standing here,” Hinchcliffe said. “So the donors that gave their time and gave their blood are as much heroes to me.

“To know that literally part of them is part of me now is humbling, it’s crazy. I’m speechless.”

The need for blood donations is ongoing daily. To learn more about how and where to donate, visit RedCrossBlood.org.