There was no action at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, but about 50 miles north in Statesville, N.C., some members of the NASCAR community gathered at Ryan and Krissie Newman’s Rescue Ranch N.C. for the dedication of the Earnhardt Family Playground.
NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton was there and so was team owner Richard Childress. The Earnhardt family was well represented with Dale Jr. and wife Amy, Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Kerry Earnhardt. Also there was Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex, who donated a swing set to the project.
The Earnhardt Family Playground is designed to be inclusive for use by children with and without disabilities. The soft surface makes it easy for wheelchairs to roll on, and is energy absorbent to make impact easier if a child falls. The new playground is one of the few of its kind in the state of North Carolina.
Here’s what some in attendance had to say about the project:
The mastermind of the program is Krissie Newman, wife of NASCAR driver Ryan Newman. “We want to teach kids and have them have fun while they’re here, and have a good experience and hopefully take a piece of Rescue Ranch away and make it part of their story,” Krissie said. “A lot of people remember where they went on field trips as a kid and I want Rescue Ranch to be one of those places in the future — that they learned how to take care of animals better, respect the environment and just have a different level of compassion and empathy for living things in general.”
Newman, who drives for Richard Childress Racing, has been very active in philanthropic endeavors, especially this facility. The playground is the newest addition to the 177-acre Rescue Ranch. “It’s all-inclusive, so handicapped kids and non-handicapped kids can enjoy it together or families that have one of each,” Newman said of the playground. “We can have whole schools here and include everybody. It’s their recess while their using the animal education center. It gives them the opportunity to have full day programs instead of half-day programs, which is important.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The donation of the Earnhardt Family Playground really was a family affair funded by the Dale Jr. Foundation. “They (Ryan and Krissie Newman) told us about their plans for the playground and what that would mean for the community. We always look for great opportunities to give back to our communities and sort of leave a mark here, for everything we’ve been given. It’s always fun to give back. This was just a really unique opportunity to grow Rescue Ranch. They’re doing some amazing things and they’re such a blessing to have. We’re excited and honored, actually, to be a part of it.”
Kelley Earnhardt Miller
Like her siblings, Miller was enthused to see the children enjoy the Earnhardt Family Playground. “What’s really cool is to see the kids who don’t have this kind of opportunity to participate,” she said. “I see them over here just laughing and their hands are going wild and they’re just so excited to have a place to swing. They can be in a seat that’s safe for them.”
The eldest Earnhardt and his family worked very closely with Rescue Ranch even before the playground project. “It was neat to see this opportunity come about,” he said. “They do so much for kids and animals and now with a playground, these kids have an opportunity to do things they’ve never done before. It’s awesome to see the kids on top of the slide and jumping up and down and screaming and kids in the chairs sliding. It’s pretty awesome.”
Martin Truex Jr.
Few couples embody the philanthropic spirit of the NASCAR community more than Truex and longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who have done so much work for pediatric cancer. “This is so needed in the area,” Truex said of the playground. “Kids from Mooresville (N.C.) and south of Mooresville and this area are going to have to come here to use this type of playground because it’s the only one in the area. It’s definitely something that’s needed in the community.”
Pollex and Martin Truex Jr. were thrilled to be a part of this project. “It’s really cool for us because we do so much work with kids all the time through our foundation and for pediatric cancer,” said Pollex. “But to be able to give back to Rescue Ranch and be a part of this playground and do something for our friends Ryan and Krissie Newman — we’re really proud of what they’ve done here. And we donated the swing set, so it’s cool for us to be able to help kids with all disabilities, not just what we’re used to, which is kids with pediatric cancer. So it’s been a really neat day for us. I’m glad we’re here.”