DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 13, 2012) – “For the first time in my life, I’m speechless!” “This is the call I’ve been waiting for!” “I’m shocked and very, very thankful.” “Oh My Gosh! I have tears in my eyes!”
These were the initial responses from finalists Ron Eby, Michael Jackson, Ali McDonough and Lorri Shealy Unumb, who received calls from The NASCAR Foundation informing them they had been selected as one of four national finalists for the 2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award (BJFHA). Each of the finalists is guaranteed a $25,000 donation to their cause from The NASCAR Foundation, with the national winner being awarded $100,000.
The award honors the unwavering commitment that The NASCAR Foundation Chairwoman Betty Jane France has demonstrated with her philanthropic and community efforts. The award is granted annually to one passionate NASCAR fan that has made a profound impact on children in his or her local community.
“The courage, compassion and selflessness that these four finalists have demonstrated is awe-inspiring,” said France. “They have accepted the personal challenges life has thrown at them with grace and dignity, while finding avenues to help others facing similar challenges. These deserving NASCAR fans help contribute to their respective communities in moving ways and their accomplishments make them outstanding selections for 2012 finalists.”
NASCAR fans, friends and families are encouraged to vote for their favorite humanitarian by logging on to NASCAR.COM/award between now and midnight ET on November 29, 2012. The finalist who amasses the most votes will be declared the national winner, and will be announced by France live on stage during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on November 30. The victor will also win a 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Finalists:
Ron Eby (Windham, Maine) knew it was time to give back to the community after his daughter experienced meningitis and was rushed to a children’s hospital in Dayton, Ohio, while on a cross-country trip. The incredible care and compassion that his daughter received inspired him to get involved with Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families in Casco, Maine. As a successful business owner, the 52-year-old auto repair shop owner knew fundraising would be his strength; he has helped raise over $250,000 for thousands of children dealing with serious illnesses. When Eby isn’t recruiting new sponsors for the camp, you can find him serving up food in Ron’s Mexican Cantina. All proceeds from the sale of the authentic Mexican food are dedicated to supporting Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families in Casco, Maine.
Michael Jackson (Duluth, Minn.) leads by example and shows the world that nothing should get in the way of happiness. The 18-year-old has battled cerebral palsy, a life-threatening condition, for his entire life, Jackson serves as a Young Adult Community Leader for the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s Starbright World bringing hope, inspiration, support and laughter to fellow teens with serious and chronic illnesses. Jackson has also raised funds for Starlight to sponsor Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment units at Essentia Children’s Hospital in Duluth so that other children could benefit from the Fun Center’s games and movies as part of distraction therapy just as he did.
Ali McDonough (Wilmington, Del.) experienced something that changed her life forever. Five years ago as a teenager, her younger brother passed away in her arms after a courageous six-month battle with leukemia. Since then, McDonough, 21, has devoted her life to help fight childhood cancer, co-founding The Andrew McDonough B+ (Be Positive) Foundation which funds cutting-edge childhood cancer research and helps families of children with cancer.
Lorri Shealy Unumb (Lexington, S.C.) has impacted thousands of children with special needs for more than 25 years. As a mother of three, Unumb was deeply impacted when her oldest son, Ryan, was diagnosed with severe autism at a young age and was devastated to learn that insurance would not cover the cost of treatment for children with autism. As a result, the 44-year-old drafted a bill – now known as “Ryan’s Law” that has been enacted in 31 other states – to encourage autism insurance reform. Unumb also founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, a non-profit organization that protects the interests of children with the disability.
To learn more about the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award and each of the finalists, please visit NASCAR.COM/award. Fans can also join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #BJFHAward. Click here for a photo gallery of the 2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Finalists: http://bit.ly/bjfha-2012-photos.
About The NASCAR Foundation
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Inc., (NASCAR) launched The NASCAR Foundation in January 2006. The foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit entity that embodies the compassion of the NASCAR family and its commitment to serving communities. The NASCAR Foundation seeks to raise funds and increase volunteerism to support nonprofit charities and charitable causes throughout the nation with an emphasis placed on initiatives that affect the ability of children to live, learn and play. For more information on The NASCAR Foundation, please visit the website: NASCAR.COM/foundation. Follow The NASCAR Foundation on www.facebook.com/NASCARFoundation or on Twitter: @NASCAR_FDN.