Rockford, IL – A Midwest independent insurance agency has teamed up with The Wounded Blue charity organization to sponsor police-themed NASCAR vehicles in honor of the nation’s law enforcement officers.
Insurance King President Dan Block told The Police Tribune that he knew heading into sponsorship that he wanted to raise awareness and support for wounded officers.
He was just seven years old in 1983 when his father, Rockford Police Department (RPD) Lt. Douglas Block, was shot during an armed robbery at the Rainbow Tap bar on Kilburn Avenue.
The off-duty lieutenant, who had been on the force for just three years at the time, was chatting with the bartender, Donald Parker, when two suspects stormed into the business with their guns drawn and ordered them to hand over their wallets, according to a Rockford Register Star news clipping.
One of the gunmen made his way behind the bar and grabbed money from the register, then started collecting the victims’ wallets off of the bar.
That’s when Lt. Block, who was unarmed, decided to take action.
He and Parker both lunged at the suspect as gunshots rang out.
“[My father] grabbed the [suspect’s] gun and pulled it in to his body,” Block told The Police Tribune.
One of the rounds struck the lieutenant and “ricocheted off his rib,” Block explained.
Parker, 35, was fatally shot by the gunman during the struggle.
Lt. Block survived the attack and served with RPD for another 25 years before he suffered a debilitating injury during a fall while chasing a domestic violence suspect.
The injury caused permanent nerve damage and forced him into retirement five years early, Block said.
“He has to have a leg brace to be able to walk,” he explained.
Block said that he and the rest of the Insurance King team knew that they wanted to include a police theme in their NASCAR sponsorship, but they weren’t sure which direction they wanted to go.
He reached out to retired Las Vegas Metro Police Lieutenant Randy Sutton, founder of The Wounded Blue, after watching him talk about the organization on FOX News.
The Wounded Blue is committed to helping and fighting for officers who are injured in the line of duty.
“Each year, over fifty thousand American law enforcement officers will sustain injuries from assault and on the job accidents ranging from minor to catastrophic,” according to the organization’s website.
“Most Americans assume that in the event of sustaining on-duty injuries, law enforcement agencies and the local, county, and state governments which employ them would be responsible for taking care of them, financially, medically, and psychologically as these injuries are incurred while serving the people they swore to protect. Unfortunately, the reality is often quite different,” The Wounded Blue site reads.
The organization helps link current and former law enforcement officers with licensed counselors and peer advocate support, among a slew of other services.
They also have established a K9 Companions Program, help to provide emergency financial aid, and advocate for stronger protections and laws for officers who are injured.
“We hit it off right away,” Block told The Police Tribune regarding his initial conversation with Sutton. “Very quickly I realized it was the perfect charity to support!”
Block’s plan to showcase Insurance King’s support for police was further validated when he was offered the #53 car for the Dover doubleheader in August.
“That was [my father’s] badge number,” he told The Police Tribune.
Block said he’s included The Wounded Blue in all of the design plans since the initial races, to include the upcoming Kansas Cup on Oct. 18.
“The same design we had on the #53 Dover races will run on the #7 car at the Kansas Cup race, which is the highest level of NASCAR,” he told The Police Tribune.
The design features a Thin Blue Line flag, as well as a police badge and the words “Never Forgotten Never Alone.”
Block said that he and driver Josh Bilicki have been receiving “great feedback” about the car’s message.
“He is excited to support the police,” Block added, referring to Bilicki.
Bilicki said during a National Report interview in August that he and the rest of his team have received “far more positive than negative” feedback about the car since its debut.
The driver said he is proud to be a part of a project that is helping wounded officers.
“We are so thankful for people like Josh, and for sponsors like Dan at Insurance King who is sponsoring this car in tribute to these officers,” Sutton said in a press release in August. “Their support means so much to our officers.”
Bilicki will wear a custom “Back the Blue” fire suit for Sunday’s race, which will be given to Sutton afterwards to be auctioned off to benefit The Wounded Blue, Block told The Police Tribune.
But the team’s show of support for America’s law enforcement is just getting started.
“Now that we have ran multiple times with the Wounded Blue schemes in all three of the NASCAR series – Truck, Xfinity, and Cup series – we are getting ready for the Nov. 1 race at Martinsville Speedway,” Block noted.
They decided to go for a “squad car” look for the race, which will take place just before Election Day.
Insurance King will give up its ad space on the vehicle in order to make room for the word “POLICE,” a Wounded Blue Badge, and stars or badges honoring each of the law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty in 2020.
“We originally came up with the squad car idea early in the season when all of the ‘defund the police’ rhetoric began,” Block told The Police Tribune.
“No one has ever given up their marketing space and created a POLICE scheme like this before,” he added. “Yes, there has been Back the Blue in a lower level of NASCAR but the team did not have a sponsor and the driver put it on the car to show support on his own, which is super awesome.”
“This is a sponsor giving up paid space in the highest level of NASCAR to show support for the men and women in blue,” Block explained.
Insurance King is planning on expanding its pro-police message even further in the months to come.
“We look forward to a long relationship with Josh Bilicki and The Wounded Blue,” Block told The Police Tribune. “We are already working on a program to bring our running NASCAR show car and tour bus out to multiple cities to bring awareness to The Wounded Blue.”
Sutton praised Bilicki and Block during a National Report interview in August for their fearless support of law enforcement.
“Josh and Dan had the courage to step forward and support law enforcement in this day and age when literally there are economic sanctions placed on people who support law enforcement now,” Sutton said. “This is about compassion. This is about empathy. And this is really truly about unity.”
He noted that the anti-police movements and calls to defund the nations’ police are “sheer insanity,” based upon both “disinformation and misinformation” that has been disseminated “at a level that is absolutely unheard of.”
“We have governors, we have mayors who have sided with the anti-law enforcement, violent forces, that are literally torching our cities, and somehow, the police became the bad guys,” Sutton said. “Now keep in mind, during all of these riots…more and more police officers are being injured…This is what we deal with every day.”