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Chante Gonzalez Vido is a two-time cancer survivor. Having beaten the beast — twice, no less — it would be understandable if she wanted to get as far away from the dreaded disease as possible. To expect that, however, would amount to not understanding this remarkable young woman and her resolve to help children facing their own cancer battles.
Gonzalez Vido, 30, is one of four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide. The award honors NASCAR fans who are also accomplished volunteers working for children’s causes in their communities throughout the United States. It also honors the memory and the philanthropic legacy of the foundation’s late founder, Betty Jane France, who passed away in August 2016.
On Thursday, Nov. 30, the award winner will be announced during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas. The winner will be determined by online voting at NASCAR.com/Award; voting ends on Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. (ET). The NASCAR Foundation donates $100,000 to the charity the winner represents and $25,000 to the other finalists’ charities.
Gonzalez Vido, from Jamul, California, represents the San Diego-based Seany Foundation, which operates “Camp Reach for the Sky” where Gonzalez Vido is the head counselor overseeing all activities and training and on-boarding of volunteers while also leading fundraising efforts.
She and the camp have some serious history, dating to her childhood. Gonzalez Vido was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 6. Some years later she started attending the camp herself and when she turned 18, she started volunteering work at the camp. She found she was well-equipped to both relate and assist young campers. Been there, done that.
Her involvement with Camp Reach for the Sky has remained a constant — except for some time she missed in 2011, when cancer returned in another form of leukemia.
“That part made it a little more shocking, because it was so spread apart — 17 years between the first and second diagnoses,” Gonzalez Vido says.
Camp Reach for the Sky, a free summer camp for kids with cancer and their siblings, has been bolstered since 2013 by inclusion into the Seany Foundation, an organization that carries on the legacy of the late Sean Lewis Robins and his battle with Ewing sarcoma, a rare childhood cancer that affects soft tissue and bone. As Gonzalez Vido’s sometimes arduous but always inspiring journey has progressed, she has come to personify the outstanding service provided at the camp. Gonzalez Vido is a past winner of the Chris Ramirez Award, given annually to The Seany Foundation’s most dedicated and most impactful volunteer.
“I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve enjoyed the camp more, because now I’ve been a counselor longer than I was a camper,” says Gonzalez Vido, who is also an elementary school teacher.
“Most of the volunteers are former campers. You’ve grown up with these people. It’s always like a big family reunion.”
Gonzalez Vido’s own family introduced her to NASCAR. When she was growing up, watching races on television and attending races at the rough-and-tumble Barona Speedway dirt track in Ramona, California, Northeast of San Diego. Over the last decade her favorite driver has come to be seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, from nearby El Cajon.
“As a family event we’d go to Barona — that was kind of like my first introduction to auto racing,” Gonzalez Vido says. “Also on the weekend, my step dad would always have NASCAR on TV.”
Funds resulting from the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award competition will support the continued offering of Camp Reach for the Sky sessions at no charge, in addition to the expansion of psycho-social programs and the creation of a “junior council” to develop new camp activities and support systems.
“To win the award would be … there’s really no better word … than awesome,” Gonzalez Vido says.