Those who knew her have said the late Betty Jane France was kind, classy and generous with her time, but it was her ability to bring those same qualities out in others that helped grow The NASCAR Foundation into the success that it is today. On Thursday, The NASCAR Foundation celebrated its 15th anniversary and did it on the birthday of its founder and chairwoman emeritus, Mrs. France.
The day featured a virtual Town Hall Meeting with Lesa France Kennedy, Ben Kennedy and Mike Helton. This esteemed leadership group shared admiration for the work The NASCAR Foundation is doing as it continues Mrs. France’s legacy of helping children.
Since being founded in 2006, The NASCAR Foundation has raised nearly $40 million to impact the lives of more than 1.4 million kids in NASCAR-served communities. Over the years, two of the pillars of The NASCAR Foundation have been the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award and the Speediatrics Children’s Fund.
Each year, four finalists are selected and then voted upon for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. With the award hitting the 10-year milestone in 2020, there have been 40 finalists who have earned more than 625,000 votes cast in the contest. The NASCAR Foundation has contributed $1,770,000 to children’s charities represented by award finalists over that time, and those charities have been able to serve the needs of 354,647 children.
Joe Vaughn of the South Carolina-based Project HOPE Foundation and winner of the 2019 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award talked about what his group has done with the $100,000 grant money within the autism community it serves.
“We used the funds to support our largest program, which is our Applied Behavior Analysis therapy program,” Vaughn said. “ABA Therapy is the best way we know to help children with autism, working one-on-one with each child 25-40 hours every week. Your contribution provided the opportunities for children to say their first words after years of silence, for families to experience their first meal together without a major meltdown, for hope to enter into the lives of the hundreds we serve.”
Charlene Greer, a volunteer at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia/Flagler counties in Florida and winner of the 2020 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, said the $100,000 helped the clubs keep operating in a safe and socially distanced way during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it possible to provide services and a safe haven for 1,600 kids in the community.
The impact the clubs are having was particularly evident to Greer when she heard a young man lead a prayer at a February meeting in Deltona, Florida, when volunteers were allowed back in the clubs under socially distanced guidelines.
“He said, ‘Miss Charlene, thank you so much for everything, we love you guys,’” Greer said. “And then I asked him, ‘Will you say the prayer for us today before we have our afternoon snack?’ Which he gladly did. And as he was praying, he said, ‘Thank you God for letting us have a safe place to go, and please God keep us all safe and that no one else in our neighborhood will be shot.’”
These types of stories hit at the heart of what The NASCAR Foundation has stood for during its first 15 years. It’s also the need to help children that is the basis for what’s behind the Speediatrics Children’s Fund.
Mrs. France’s vision was to bring the colors and spirit of NASCAR into the pediatric inpatient unit at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, Florida, in order to provide an environment more conducive to healing. That thought led to the fund’s birth.
Since then, the Speediatrics Children’s Fund has supported needs expressed by hospitals, specialty clinics, camps and others providing children’s medical and health care services. And by partnering with organizations in the delivery of pediatric services to fund resources critically needed to deliver high-quality care to needy children, the fund has impacted the lives of more than 750,000 children.
In addition, the Speediatrics Children’s Fund’s vision has expanded into NASCAR racing communities through the Foundation’s Speediatrics Fun Day Festival program aimed at inspiring children to live healthy lives through the lens of NASCAR. During the festivals usually held around race weekends at a particular track, NASCAR drivers have competed with kids in fun games like the tire roll, or crew members jumping rope with kids. The program started in three markets in 2017 and is set to expand into eight markets during 2021.
So, whether you are eager to donate and help kids in your community, looking for the next Speediatrics Fun Day Festival you could attend or wanting to read about and recognize some of the great people in the NASCAR community, head over to The NASCAR Foundation’s website and join in on the anniversary celebration.