MIAMI BEACH, Fla.– JR Motorsports fabricator Wade Jackson and his wife Kim accepted the second annual Comcast Community Champion Award Monday night during NASCAR's XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series banquet at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.
For this inspiring family, the recognition is also for their son Jacob, who passed away at the age of 17 from a congenital heart defect. They have channeled their unimaginable heartbreak into giving back to other children who suffer from the same medical issue and have formed Camp LUCK as a refuge for both those children and their families.
Also nominated for the award and honored with a large monetary donation from Comcast was Samantha Busch, for her work with the Kyle and Samantha Busch Bundle of Joy Fund, which has contributed substantial money to 13 couples undergoing the IVF treatment as the Busches did two years ago. Busch also works with the Pretty in Pink Foundation to raise money for uninsured and under-insured breast cancer patients, and founded an annual Prom Dress Drive to help young girls who couldn't afford formal wear.
Richard Childress Racing pit crew coach Ray Wright was the third nominee for the Community Champion award. He founded "Pit Stops for Hope," which raises money to help combat childhood hunger. Each week at the race track, pit crews donate worn clothing and various items that he then sells and uses the money to fund his program for local schools and children.
The award and recognition is a win-win-win situation for all the nominees, who benefit from a generous donation and publicity.
"Just to have our name mentioned by XFINITY and Comcast and last year’s finalists, just to get the word out about camp is incredible," said Jackson, who was still emotional after accepting the award on stage Monday night.
"We have met so any lifelong friends, those that didn't know Jacob but knew his story.
"Once you see the kids coming and playing and forgetting about the scars…. They get to see their doctors in a fun-filled environment, not with all the needles and stuff they have to do to save their lives. But with them singing and dancing and playing and when they go back to the hospital it's not such a bad experience.
"They look forward to going back and seeing their doctor and talking about what they did at camp. It changes the way they perceive the hospital. And for the parents to be able to talk to the doctors outside the hospital setting and to talk to other families whose child may have the same heart defect and to see the older kids who are 15, or 18 years old.
"When you have a two-year old your whole world has just come crashing down when you find out they have this, but instead they see them running and playing and leading a regular life."
The monetary donation to the winner is $60,000 with each of the other two finalists receiving $30,000 – help that will make an immediate difference.
The Jacksons, for example, said their award will fund an entire year of camp for 120 patients. It will also allow for siblings to attend, an important aspect as families often have to forego trips and vacations due to the health of a child suffering from heart defects.
"It’s just amazing," Kim Jackson said. "Not only will it affect the kids and their families and their siblings, it allows us to change our relationship with the doctors and support staff at the hospitals because the kids just love the opportunity to be able to interact with the medical staff that takes care of them.
"It affects the whole family and for our Jacob, he was happy the whole time. He just lived life."
A fellow JR Motorsports employee, the XFINITY Series' Most Popular Driver winner Elliott Sadler said he especially was impressed with the list of nominees. And he has personal reason to appreciate the Jacksons' work. His son Wyatt spent 10 weeks in the NICU – neonatal intensive care unit -- after birth.
"To see what Wade and his family have gone through and all the good job they've done and now get an award and get recognized is amazing," Sadler said. "It's so heart-wrenching watching families go through it but then you get a shining star like him that can turn it into a positive situation is so amazing.
"It's so cool he's on our team. When you see people give back in that amount it means so much.
"When you see Comcast come along and use their platform like this, it's really neat our sport is that close community-wise."