In 1982, New Hampshire Motor Speedway CEO Bruton Smith began a charity for children, known as ‘Speedway Children’s Charities’. It was established as a legacy to his son, Bruton Cameron Smith who passed away at a very young age.
The charity has raised more than 2.5 million dollars for 370 non-profit organizations, helping nearly one million children through the different chapters, one at each of the eight tracks Smith owns. The New Hampshire chapter began at the start of the 2010 calendar year, representing and donating to 47 organizations throughout New England this month, including the Boys and Girls Club of Lowell.
“Basically our whole mission is to help a child in need,” Executive Director of the N.H. Chapter Cheryl LaPrade told The Sun. “If a child needs a coat or food. Anything to help a child is what we are looking for. Speedway Children’s Charities is a national organization, but all of the money we are raising, primarily from our race fans, stays in New England.”
In just two years, the charity has raised more than $350,000 for dozens of area organizations, including the Merrimack Valley Food Bank of Lowell. LaPrade hopes that as each year goes by, the SCC New Hampshire chapter will become more known to race fans, resulting in more opportunities for them to help children in need. LaPrade estimates that 2011 donations will provide support to 27,000 underprivileged New England children.
Several unique fundraising events, largely centered around the two NASCAR Sprint Cup race week’s help make the SCC a success. They have a track walk, driver memorabilia auctions, lobster and clam bakes, a golf tournament, and an event known as the red bucket brigade, where volunteers go through the stands, allowing fans to donate any amount of money to the charity.
New in 2011 was a private dinner with NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart. Following an online auction, the two highest bidders and their guests had a private dinner in Bruton Smith’s suite overlooking the speedway with Stewart, pit reporter Dick Berggren and Greg Kretschmar from the Morning Buzz radio show.
“We try to change it up,” LaPrade added. “We try to provide different experiences for race fans that you can’t just buy a ticket for. We also do what they call ‘Ride of a Lifetime’. Fans can bid online for the opportunity to ride in the back of a pickup truck with their favorite driver (during race introductions).”
The current fundraising event that is ongoing through the end of the year is the ‘Gift of Lights’ celebration at the NHMS track. All of the proceeds from this event, which features more than a mile of christmas related light displays, with more than one million lights used, will go to benefit SCC and their non-profit beneficiaries.
Recipient organizations are chosen by a grant review commettee, which is comprised of board of trustee members at NHMS. Non-profit organizations anywhere in New England, focused on helping children, are encouraged to apply through the web site, www.speedwaycharities.org. The site can also be accessed on the track web site, www.nhms.com, under the ‘Speedway’ tab. At the end of the year, all of the money raised during that calendar year is distributed to the organizations that have been chosen.
“As each year goes by it’s going to become more known to the race fans,” LaPrade added. “I would love it for everyone in the United States to recognize the Children’s Charity logo.”