RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
There is a children's clinic with a new name that's raising a lot of eyebrows in North Carolina. UNC Health Care named one of its clinics the Krispy Kreme Challenge Children's Specialty Clinic. WFAE's Michael Tomsic has more.
MICHAEL TOMSIC, BYLINE: Since the announcement last month, UNC Chapel Hill nutrition professor Barry Popkin has heard from a lot of colleagues wondering what the heck is going on at UNC.
BARRY POPKIN: To give advertisement to a very unhealthy food with no nutritional value was quite surprising to people around the nation.
TOMSIC: Especially since North Carolina ranks poorly on childhood obesity. For Krispy Kreme, the advertisement is both free and unintentional. Leslie Nelson is head of UNC Children's fundraising and communications, and she says there's been confusion about the role of the Winston-Salem-based donut company.
LESLIE NELSON: The corporation is definitely not part of the name. It's named for a race, and so the name of the donut happens to be in the name of the race. But at the heart of it, it's about the race.
TOMSIC: That's the sound of the Krispy Kreme Challenge starting. NC State junior Chris Cooper is a race director.
CHRIS COOPER: You run 2 1/2 miles, and then the challengers eat a dozen donuts and the casual runners normally just pick their donuts up and keep running. And then you run 2 1/2 miles back to the Belltower.
TOMSIC: If all that donut pounding and distance running sounds kind of sickening, Cooper says it can be.
COOPER: When people are running back, there's normally a fair amount of throw-up that happens. We have a group of students whose job is to go around and clean up the streets.
TOMSIC: Gross, sure, but NC State students have been using the race to benefit UNC Children's Hospital and Clinics for about 10 years. They eventually got permission to use the Krispy Kreme name, but they still have to pay for the donuts. The race has raised about $1 million. Its leaders committed to raise another million at the Raleigh clinic announcement. That makes the criticism frustrating to UNC's Leslie Nelson.
NELSON: Behind all of this is a group that's committed to making a difference for our patients and families.
TOMSIC: Nelson says UNC is now having conversations about whether to go through with the name change. In health care, public fallout over awkwardly-paired sponsorships or gifts has been seen before, like when Coca-Cola formed a partnership with the American Academy of Family Physicians, or when fast-food restaurants set up shop in hospitals. NC State student Chris Cooper says in this case, the hope was to attract more people to the race and raise more money for the kids.
COOPER: I don't think anyone in the organization was really excited about us having a name on the clinic. I think a lot more of it was, like, how are we going to use this name to help the Children's Hospital even more?
TOMSIC: Cooper says if the clinic backs off the name change, he's OK with that. They'll keep downing donuts and raising money anyway. For NPR News, I'm Michael Tomsic.
MONTAGNE: And Michael's story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, WFAE and Kaiser Health News.
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