NASCAR

Drivers get charitable with foundations

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Rea White

Rea White has been covering NASCAR full time since 1998. She has won awards from press agencies in Alabama and North Carolina and formerly served as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow her on Twitter.

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Unquestionably, NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have some of the most hectic schedules in the sport.

Just look at what they accomplish week to week. Not only do they bounce all over the country for primarily three-day race weekends, they also watch obligations shave away their remaining free moments. They make appearances. They film commercials. They meet with their teams. They race around from event to event, working in time with family or to relax.

And then, when they have a moment to breathe, many think of others. Drivers across the sport have created foundations or projects aimed at giving back to one or more charities. They work with children, animals and camps. They raise funds for hospital wings, chronically ill children and injured drivers in lower series. They visit and chat and race in the name of the charity of their choice.

They give back.

In an era when volunteerism is being touted nationally, NASCAR drivers are leading the way for a variety of causes. Championing those less fortunate than themselves has become a growing force among drivers and the sanctioning body itself, which embraces those foundations and its own initiatives through the NASCAR Foundation.

Virtually every Cup driver has been involved in some type of charity activity, either through the NASCAR Foundation or his own efforts.

In addition to the drivers who do work through their foundations are a series of other efforts and endeavors. Jeff Burton has a longtime involvement with Duke Children's Hospital. Clint Bowyer has been actively involved in projects in his hometown of Emporia, Kan. Carl Edwards participated in the attempt to drive a Ford Hybrid 1,000 miles to raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Scott Speed served as a spokesperson for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Regan Smith supported the Carolina Hurricanes Kids ‘N Community Foundation, which provides funding to children's charities in North Carolina.

Kevin Harvick now works with "Kevin's Krew," an outreach program in partnership with sponsor Shell Oil Co. that exposes students to the racing industry.

"Kevin's Krew is basically a group of challenged or underprivileged kids that come to the race track that the local police department started near Fontana (California) and they basically bring anywhere from 20 to 80 kids to the track and let them get away from their environment and put them in an environment that impresses them enough to go out and do things that are fun and to be in an environment that is safe and put a good influence on their lives," Harvick says.

"So, we do that about eight times a year and the local police departments handle that and bring the kids to the track and they have a great time with it. So it's fun to see the smiles on the kids faces."

Kasey Kahne agrees. He's hosted racing events to benefit his Foundation, inviting other drivers to participate. In most cases, when one driver holds an event, others show up to support it or to race in it. Kahne says that he enjoys hosting the events.

"Hopefully we can keep supporting that and raising money and putting smiles on kids faces," he said of one of his events.

Some drivers support causes close to them, either through knowing or being in close contact with someone directly effected by it. Others are impacted by personal encounters in their own lives. All share a common goal, though, of reaching out and helping others in any way they can – even in a sport where schedules are tight.

In NASCAR, not only do the drivers talk about giving back to the fans – they back up their words through the support they show to a variety of causes and charities.

Here's a look at some of the driver foundations and what they benefit.

Greg Biffle Foundation: Founded in 2005 by Biffle and his wife, Nicole, the organization focuses on advocating for the well-being of animals. The Foundation offers grants for animal shelters and humane societies and raises funds through the sale of an annual Pet Calendar featuring NASCAR personalities and their pets.

Kurt Busch Foundation: The organization's mission is to aid groups involved in health care, education, career training and rehabilitation. Busch has been actively involved in the Victory Junction Gang Camp, which is home to the Kurt Busch Superdome, an indoor sports facility. He also hosts an annual "Sprint for the Kids" in Las Vegas.

Kyle Busch Foundation: The foundation primarily supports children's homes throughout the country. It has worked to renovate some facilities and hosted events as fundraisers as well as bringing children to tracks.

Dale JR Foundation: Earnhardt Jr. is actively involved in Make-A-Wish and the Victory Junction Gang Camp through the foundation. Fundraising events are held annually to help benefit these and other causes the group supports.

Jeff Gordon Foundation: Aimed at helping children, the foundation has raised more than $7 million in financial support for various charities, according to its Web site. Gordon has gone a step further, too, supporting the Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital in Concord, N.C., Make-A-Wish and working with marrow donor recruitment. He has raised money through various events, including a go-kart contest.

Denny Hamlin Foundation: The organization focuses primarily on raising awareness and funding for the specific needs of individuals afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis. He has hosted fundraising races and gone an extra step for fans, giving away tickets to races.

Sam Hornish Jr. Foundation: Hornish's foundation lists a sweeping array of beneficiaries, including a senior center in his home town of Defiance, Ohio, in memory of his grandmother. He has also been involved with Special Olympics, St. Jude's Hospital for Children and a host of other projects.

Jimmie Johnson Foundation: Since its inception in 2006, the group has donated more than $3 million to various organizations, according to its Web site. Some of its key projects include helping schools through the Lowe's Toolbox for Educations Champions Grants and the Victory Junction Gang Camp for chronically ill children, which now includes the Jimmie Johnson's Victory Lanes bowling alley.

Kasey Kahne Foundation: Created in 2005, the organization's focus is on chronically ill children and their families and disadvantaged youth. Kahne hosts annual racing events as part of the foundation's fundraising efforts.

Bobby Labonte Foundation: Founded in 2003, Labonte's organization focuses on charitable groups that aid children. It supports Victory Junction Gang Camp as well as the North Carolina Quarter Midget Association, among other causes.

Formula Smiles Foundation: Formed by Juan Pablo Montoya and his wife, Connie, the organization works to use sports to improve the quality of life of children in Montoya's native Colombia in "vulnerable situations." The organization has hosted a series of golf tournaments as well as a Gala in Miami, among other projects, to support its cause.

Jamie McMurray Foundation: The organization is involved in fundraising for the research, education and support of individuals and families impacted by autism. McMurray has hosted golf tournaments as part of its effort.

Ryan Newman Foundation: Founded by Ryan and his wife, Krissie, the multi-faceted foundation participates in programs including spaying/neutering pets, conservation projects and scholarship funding through the Rich Vogler Scholarship program. The Newmans have funded a North Carolina spay/neuter clinic as well as been active partners in pet adoption programs. They help support the organization through a pair of "Pit Road Pets" books featuring NASCAR personalities and their pets that are available through the Web site.

The Hermie and Elliott Sadler Foundation: The foundation works to raise awareness of autism while promoting research for a cure and working with the families of autistic children. Bowling events and an annual party with fans and country music singers are the group's premier events.

David Reutimann Foundation: Reutimann's organization has a broad mission plan of aiding children, families and individuals through donations to organizations. Each year Reutimann hosts a cookout, auction and golf tournament in his home town of Zephyrhills, Fla., to benefit various charities.

Tony Stewart Foundation: The Foundation aims to raise and donate funds to help care for both critically ill children – Stewart is a co-founder of the Victory Junction Gang Camp – and drivers who are injured in racing, as well as other causes. Stewart has committed millions to the camp and other endeavors and the funds raised through his annual Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway help programs he supports.

Martin Truex Jr. Foundation: Aimed at reaching out to children, Truex has created the Teddy Bear Campaign, pajama drives and is actively involved in a children's advocacy center in North Carolina. Truex hosts an annual poker tournament as well as other fundraising campaigns.

NASCAR Foundation: The organization supports a wide range of charities that "reflect the core values of the entire NASCAR family." While it is involved in numerous events, from blood drives to building children's playgrounds to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the organization is perhaps best known for its annual, "NASCAR Day." This year's NASCAR Day, May 21, will support "renovation and race theme decoration of a portion of the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in Atlanta; partnering with Bank of America for a racing-themed educational initiative at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.; working with Sprint, Inc. for a playground build at the Kansas City Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City, Mo.; A Place for Hope project outside Charlotte, N.C., and a youth initiative at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif."

*Source: Foundation information based on official Web sites for each.
Tagged: Scott Speed, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Bobby Labonte, Martin Truex Jr., David Reutimann, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Scott Speed, Sam Hornish Jr.

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