Official Event Artwork by Michael J. McBride Unveiled

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –The Iroquois Steeplechase sponsored by Bank of America, benefiting Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt recently held the annual kick-off event and announced the honorary chair John (Jay) C. Wellons III, MD, MSPH, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery and Cal Turner Chair in Pediatric Neurosurgery at Monroe Carell.

Dr. Wellons is a Professor in the Departments of Neurological Surgery, Pediatrics, Plastic Surgery and Radiology and Radiological Sciences, and is also the Vice Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. He founded SOCKS (Surgical Outcomes Center for Kids) in 2015 and served as the Medical Director until 2022. He also served as the VUMC Section of Surgical Sciences Vice Chair of Clinical Research from 2018-2022 and Department of Neurological Surgery Program Director for the Neurosurgery Residency Training Program from 2014-2018.

In June 2022, his book All That Moves Us: A Pediatric Neurosurgeon, His Young Patients, and Their Stories of Grace and Resilience debuted. He has also been a contributor to the New York Times Sunday Review, TIME, Garden and Gun Magazine, Fresh Air: NPR and

“I’m honored to represent the many physicians and staff at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt who work on behalf of the children of our community and beyond,” said Wellons. “The Iroquois Steeplechase has a long history of partnering with the hospital and bringing necessary support to children and families in need. I am grateful to everyone involved in the event and excited to carry out my role!”

This year’s Child Ambassador from Monroe Carell is 10-year-old Rivers DeLisle. Rivers was born with a rare heart condition called tetralogy of Fallot that includes a combination of four congenital heart defects. He underwent his first open heart surgery at just one month old. Due to complications, he suffered cardiac arrest and was placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a form of life support for those with life-threatening illness or injury that affects the function of their heart or lungs.

His care team at Monroe Carell provided constant vigilance and support, as Rivers would require multiple blood transfusions and intense medical management. His treatment plan included a follow-up surgery to repair a collapsed artery, and Rivers was then able to come off ECMO.

At seven months old, Rivers had his last open-heart surgery. Today, he is a thriving and energetic 10-year-old who enjoys horseback riding with his pony Jelly Bean, swimming, listening to music and dancing with his friends. He jumps at the chance to go to work with his dad at the equine hospital or run to the farm to feed the cows.

Rivers’ family says that he brings so much joy to everyone in his life, and he is here because of the expert care he received at Monroe Carell.

“It is difficult to put into words exactly what the hospital means to our family,” said Rivers’ mother Jessica. “They saved our son’s life, and we are forever grateful to the doctors and nurses who bring an immeasurable amount of knowledge and compassion to their patients. We are thankful for all the support staff who brought children’s books, toys and even a toothbrush if needed. We also deeply appreciated the staff who would clean our hospital room every day with a smile and kind word. We are so blessed to have this hospital right here in Middle Tennessee.”

Today, Rivers continues to receive cardiology care with yearly ultrasounds to determine when he will need his final heart repair. He also receives care from various other teams at Monroe Carell including his ear, nose and throat team who recently implanted a specialized hearing device that allows Rivers to have full auditory access to the world around him.

Iroquois Steeplechase Chairman Dwight Hall said, “We’re so honored to have Rivers as our Child Ambassador this year. He has demonstrated incredible strength and is an inspiration to us all. His father Matthew DeLisle is a partner with Tennessee Equine Hospital that has served as a sponsor of the Iroquois Steeplechase for many years. He has assisted in the care of the horses during the race, so their family has been part of the Iroquois family for years. River’s love of horses is engrained in him, and we can’t wait to have him participate in this year’s event.”

This year’s official Iroquois Steeplechase artwork was unveiled at the official kick-off event. Michael J. McBride was selected as this year’s artist and his painting he entitled SteepleChase Ghost Rider was unveiled depicting a black and white oil painting of an energized horse race with a horse and rider hovering above the track. At the unveiling, Iroquois SteeplechasePresident Marianne Byrd said, “We enjoyed meeting Michael last year and having him display and sell some of his original artwork at the race. We’re so proud of the piece he painted depicting the Iroquois Steeplechase for this year’s official poster.”

McBride earned his undergraduate degree in art from Tennessee State University and his graduate degree in painting from Illinois State University. He is currently an instructor of art at Tennessee State University and has been the lead artist on many community-based mural projects in Nashville. His body of work titled “Too Black Too Fast” is a traveling exhibition of art about African-American jockeys and trainers. His work is included in both private and public collections in the US and abroad. Posters of his work will be for sale at Steeplechase Central on race day or through the website

About the Iroquois Steeplechase

The Iroquois Steeplechase is an iconic sporting event that has been Nashville’s rite of spring since 1941. Held the second Saturday of each May at Percy Warner Park, the annual event attracts more than 25,000 spectators and is Music City’s celebration of time- honored traditions, Tennessee hospitality and southern fashions. The event also supports several philanthropic causes and has donated nearly $11 million to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt since 1981. To learn more about Steeplechase, visit