SBD/Issue 14/Sports Industrialists

Dale Jr. Using His Celebrity To Support Charitable Causes

Earnhardt Recently Granted His 200th
Wish Through The Make-A-Wish Foundation

When DALE EARNHARDT JR. “supports a cause, his fans around the globe often will follow suit,” according to the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Lukas Johnson, who profiles the NASCAR driver's charitable efforts. Earnhardt recently “granted his 200th wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation,” and the amount of support he attracted from his fans “shocked ESPN producers.” Earnhardt met 15-year-old JEFFREY BUZZELL, who suffers from a genetic kidney disease, for ESPN’s “My Wish” series. After the segment aired, Earnhardt’s fans “responded to ESPN.” JR Motorsports Marketing Manager CAMILLE THOMPSON said, “Their phones blew up and it was Dale’s fans asking ‘Where can I give a kidney?’ and they were not used to that.” JR Motorsports co-Owner & GM KELLEY EARNHARDT said, “The producers were floored by the response. It’s great that Dale can have that influence to have so many people want to do that, but he’s pretty enamored by the fact that somebody’s major wish in their life would be to meet him and come to a race.” The experience "made an impression on Earnhardt," who said that it was the "most memorable of the 200 wishes he has granted." The Dale Jr. Foundation also supports local charities, but Thompson said that Earnhardt “doesn’t ever brag about his deeds.” Thompson: “Even if he writes a check and says, ‘Don’t tell anybody,’ which he does all the time, I have to tell some people. He says ‘I’m going to do this but don’t make a big deal out of it.’ And I always say, ‘Great, but can I make a little bit of a big deal about it?’ Because that’s how we get people to donate to charities we support.” Earnhardt recently donated $1M to Victory Junction Gang Camp, which was looking to "build a space to host plays, concerts and fundraisers." In March, he “broke ground for the Dale Jr. Corral and Amphitheatre,” which is scheduled to be completed on Oct. 23 (THATSRACIN.com, 9/29).

Driving Awareness: In Charlotte, Leigh Dyer notes NASCAR driver JIMMIE JOHNSON as part of his foundation's “Helmet of Hope” initiative will wear “logos of charities” during the Oct. 10 Sprint Cup Series Pepsi 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Johnson: “There’s just no way to help every cause, no matter how worthy. ... Sometimes people just want to be able to tell their story of why a charity is important to them. This was our small way of letting the people who follow us each week get some recognition for charities that are important to them.” Johnson said his foundation “definitely” will continue to offer Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grants this year where he and his wife, CHANDRA, grew up -- San Diego and the Muskogee/Tulsa area -- and where they live now, Charlotte. Johnson: “After being involved with Habitat for Humanity and building four houses in the San Diego area, we kind of wanted to focus our fundraising in another area” (THATSRACIN.com, 9/30).

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