The finalists for the 2016 Comcast Community Champion Award were announced Thursday night and again it features some of the most dedicated people in the NASCAR garage -- all focused on bettering the world around them.
The nominees -- one representing each of NASCAR’s three premier series -- include Richard Childress Racing pit crew coach Ray Wright's work helping America's youth; JR Motorsports fabricator Wade Jackson, whose inspired organization CAMP LUCK (Lucky Unlimited Cardiac Kids) helps young heart disease patients; and Kyle Busch Motorsports co-owner Samantha Busch, who helped found the Kyle and Samantha Busch Bundle of Joy Fund, which helps families deal with financial hardships and last year alone, contributed more than $140,000 to families getting IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments.
"It is both humbling and empowering to hear so many examples of how individuals within NASCAR are making differences beyond the track," said Matt Lederer, Executive Director of Sports Marketing at Comcast, who noted the award, "was created to extend our partnership with NASCAR beyond the competitive space and reinforce the importance of bringing positive change to one’s own community."
Last year's inaugural winner of this esteemed award was XFINITY Series driver Joey Gase. He was awarded $60,000 to assist with his work with the Iowa Donor Network, which helps educate about organ donation. The effort is real for Gase, who when only 18-years old, lost his mother. Her organ donation, however, helped save the lives of 66 other people.
This year's nominees have similar heartfelt, far-reaching stories of generosity, care and hope.
The winner will be selected by Comcast and NASCAR executives along with former Sprint Cup driver Kyle Petty and NASCAR.com's senior writer, Holly Cain and the winner will be revealed during the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series banquet, Monday Nov. 21. It will air on NBCSN on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. ET.
Wright, who is the Sprint Cup Series nominee, founded Pit Stops for Hope, which provides food for children and is focused on providing a "productive classroom environment."
Wright's work is well-known in the garage area, which helps contribute to the cause. He collects old pit crew items and sells them to fans. He also raises money with an agreement through RCR, which gives him donations based upon top-performing pit stops. Wright's efforts have allowed him to donate thousands of dollars to teachers and educators and his annual fundraising events have made a real difference in ending childhood hunger.
The XFINITY Series nominee, Jackson and his wife Kim began their work with Camp LUCK after an unimaginable personal loss. Their 17-year old son Jacob passed away from a congenital heart defect following open-heart surgery. As they have grieved, they have focused efforts on helping others. The camp was created to offer kids with heart disease a place to "gather together and experience community.’"
The couple volunteers countless hours at the camp, which offers a warm, loving refuge not just for the children, but for their families as well.
Busch has a similar personal origin for her and her husband's work. While going through in vitro fertilization themselves in 2014, they realized the expenses others faced as well in an effort to welcome a baby through IVF. In just the past year along, the Kyle and Samantha Busch Bundle of Joy Fund has contributed substantial money to 13 couples undergoing the IVF treatment too.
For Samantha, this important cause continued a lengthy history of the couple's generosity and care. She has also worked with the Pretty in Pink Foundation to raise money for uninsured and under-insured breast cancer patients and also founded an annual Prom Dress Drive to help young girls who couldn't afford formalwear.
The Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award serves as a reminder of how many in this sport care to make a difference in the world. In addition to the $60,000 award for the winner’s designated charity, Comcast is also giving $30,000 to each of the other finalists’ selected charities.
"Since receiving the award, I've had people come up to me almost every race weekend to tell me how they are now organ donors because of my mom's story, which many learned of thanks to the publicity from Comcast and this award," Gase said.