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NASCAR Illustrated: Kahne, Seahawks QB help kids

June 25, 2014, James Riley, NASCAR Illustrated,

Athletes connect to raise funds for Seattle Boys and Girls Clubs

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Kasey Kahne and Russell Wilson may not look like twins, but they are nearly identical when it comes to supporting children and raising money for charity.

Kahne, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, and Wilson, a Super Bowl-winning NFL quarterback, teamed to raise funds for charity earlier this week. The proceeds will go mainly to the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County.

Called simply "The Drive," the inaugural event included a kickoff that drew more than 1,000 people to CenturyLink Field on Monday. It concluded with a celebrity golf tournament at Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum on Tuesday.

Kahne, who drives the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports, started a charitable foundation in 2005. He found a willing partner for "The Drive" in Wilson, who led the Seattle Seahawks to the NFL championship last season.

Now the two hope this is only the start.

"For a first-time event, it's been spectacular," Wilson said. "We've had a lot of fun, raised a lot of money and helped a lot of kids. It's been great. I can't wait for next year. "

Kahne can't wait to see the final numbers to find out exactly how much money they were able to raise.

"We wanted to see how it would go," Kahne said. "So far, it's really gone well. We've exceeded expectations, and hopefully we can keep it going."

Kahne, 34, grew up in Enumclaw, Washington, and honed his driving skills on a variety of small tracks in the Pacific Northwest before moving to Mooresville, North Carolina.

"To get back here and do a charity event feels really good for me," Kahne said. "I've been wanting to do it a long time, and it's finally working out. I started the foundation, and it's always been about putting a smile on kid's faces."

Wilson shares Kahne's attitude about giving back to the community.

"I plan on being here for a long time, and Kasey is from here," Wilson said. "We want to have an impact for the next 20 or 30 years. That's the goal."

For both star athletes, it's about more than raising money, even when it is for a good cause.

"Money comes and goes," Wilson said. "It's about how you make an impact on kid's lives and how you make them feel. I know Kasey does a great job with that because he is so humble and amazing at what he does. To work with him and spend time with these kids is really something special."

The Boys and Girls Club of King County has 17,500 members and serves more than 32,000 kids each year.

"By all means, we need the money," President and CEO Calvin Lyons said. "We grew by more than 2,500 kids in one year. Seattle is the fastest growing big city in the country. You look at all the demographics and know that your responsibility is going to increase. So how do we continue to garner the resources to make it possible? This is critical for our success."

Lyons said it is all about promoting academic success, good character and citizenship and healthy lifestyles.

"We have programs that feed kids during the summer," Lyons said. "We make sure they not only have food to eat, but healthy food to eat. They also learn how to prepare it. Many of our clubs grow their own vegetables. We want our kids to make good choices, and our programs mean the world to them."

Kahne said adopting a healthy lifestyle is important to all athletes, and he's seen a change in his fellow NASCAR drivers since he started racing the circuit in 2004.

"It's so much different," Kahne said. "People are eating better, working out more and being more fit and more prepared for the races. It's the only way to go. I feel better about myself and feel better about my opportunities when I'm in better shape and feel good about the way I eat and the way I train."

Kayla Salisbury, 10, is one of those kids who is reaping the benefits of being a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County.

Salisbury said she goes to her club in Seattle every day to do homework, have dinner, play games, use computers and exercise.

"It plays a big role in my life," Salisbury said. "It's really inspiring that these people (Kahne and Wilson) take time out of their work schedule to put on a show for us kids. There are a lot of kids who want to grow up to be just like them."

Salisbury, however, doesn't want to race cars or quarterback a football team. She wants to be a doctor -- although she is still undecided on which specialty she would like to pursue.

One of Kahne's major sponsors, Farmers Insurance, was on hand to support the tournament and the charity, and the company recently agreed to sponsor a car for Hendricks Motorsports for three more years.

"Kasey has been a wonderful ambassador for the brand," said Chuck Browning, head of sponsorships and corporate giving for Farmers. "When Kasey revealed that he had a foundation and tries to give back to kids because he truly feels like he's been blessed with this true art of racing, that's when we really started to expand our relationship. We really enjoy what Kasey stands for in giving back to these kids."