NASCAR’s first family sets pace for philanthropy efforts

NASCAR’s first family has shifted the sport’s philanthropy arm into high gear through its million-dollar partnership with the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital of New York at NYU Langone.

NASCAR CEO Brian France and his wife, Amy, spent Wednesday meeting and spending time with young patients at the hospital as part of the sport’s Speediatrics Children’s Fund. It’s an initiative of the NASCAR Foundation, which was founded by France’s mother, the late Betty Jane France, in 2006.

“She was the driving force behind (the foundation)… This visit at Langone would have been particularly good for her,” notes Brian France, adding, “Her great love was investing NASCAR’s time and efforts in the children’s area of a hospital and pediatrics in Florida and other places where they theme it around NASCAR, making hospitals cheery and fun.

The NASCAR Matriarch died last fall just before a gala in New York City that helped raise the $1 million donation to Hassenfeld. That event turned into a tribute to Betty Jane France.

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NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and his wife Amy at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

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Now her son and his wife are helping the NASCAR Foundation take the lead in helping children. The organization’s track record over its first decade: giving $30 million to help one million children in need. Brian France said the $1 million gift to the Hessenfeld/Langone Center is one of the biggest donations to date and it’s the first national expansion of the Speediatrics initiative.

The $1 million donation will help fund additional positions in the hospital’s child-life program. Chris Brown, Director of Therapeutic Recreation/Child-Life at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, said her department “makes sure kids have access to play, arts and crafts, and holiday parties throughout the year {and} we teach coping skills and relaxation skills.”

Pediatrics, Start Your Engines

The Speediatrics outing this week at Hassenfeld featured pinewood derby and Hot Wheels cars ready for racing down the hospital hallways. NASCAR mascot Chase and Xfinity Series driver Matt Tifft, who had a non-malignant brain tumor removed last year at age 20, both joined the Frances to interact with the young patients at the hospital.

“It meant a lot to be representing the NASCAR Foundation at NYU Langone, helping to support their pediatrics program as well as the Speediatrics program,” Tifft said. “I love seeing how much effort the NASCAR Foundation is putting into each family’s care, giving every kid the opportunity to still be a kid.”

The Frances said the kids relished the opportunity to race each, but the chance to compete against Tifft helped drive spirits even higher.

“The children were clearly excited and curious to see what was going on,” said Amy France. “As we continued to do our races with them and the patients were racing against Matt and the excitement that was in the room about going against a real driver, the energy relaxed as we went on.

Brian France laughed and added, “They got a kick out of Matt and they got a kick out of beating him, too.”

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NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Matt Tifft said it meant a lot to represent the NASCAR Foundation at NYU Langone event Wednesday.

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Brown, the child-life expert, said the hospital’s expanding child-care facilities would disappear without donations. “We don’t charge patients for our services so we rely on philanthropies, corporate and personal support…this was the first gift that has allowed us to expand our programming for patients. We are really grateful for the ability to work with (the NASCAR Foundation) to enhance and expand our relationship with kids.”

NASCAR’s Philanthropy Extends to Communities

The NASCAR Foundation extends throughout the sport and also works in local communities through the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.

“The NASCAR Foundation takes the lead, but drivers, teams, and tracks join together for various opportunities to raise money or give time or both,” explains the NASCAR CEO. He and his wife are active with their own Luke and Meadow Foundation (named after the France’s six-year-old twins). It’s involved in a number of areas including autism and pediatric care.

“Amy and I have taken it upon ourselves to lead the efforts, I may be the only head of a sports league or organization that has our own (personal) robust efforts in this area,” France said. “We’re proud of that. We want to take the lead in showing our children that it’s important to give back.”

NYU Langone honored the Frances at a gala in New York Thursday night for their contributions to the hospital and Brian France said he foresees the four-year grant extending past that time frame’s checkered flag: “It will continue on. They believe in us and we believe in them.”