NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., has teamed up with the Make-A-Wish foundation on a number of occasions to bring smiles to the faces of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Even though Earnhardt has not won many races on the track as of late, what he is winning are the hearts of the many families he has touched through the foundation.
These families’ lives have all been changed thanks to athletes who have taken time out of their busy schedules for one day or even a few hours; for the children it feels more like a lifetime.
The majority of the children whose lives have been touched will never get the chance to grow up and have a normal life; most of them succumb to their illness at an early age.
What Earnhardt has done through the foundation is give back to the sport that has given him so much, even though there are those fans that see him as a disappointment.
How much of a disappointment is he really, if he can put a smile on the face of a young boy who is going through more pain and agony than we could ever imagine?
The kids who have visited Earnhardt could care less how many races or championships he has won.
Instead the only thing on their minds is that he took the time out of his busy schedule to spend with them—a very valuable lesson that some of us fans could also take a lesson.
Next time you attend a NASCAR race, look around at the kids and see if they are yelling obscenities, or getting upset because their driver isn’t leading laps.
Instead what you will see is a sparkle in their eye, along with the joy of being able to watch their favorite driver zoom past right in front of them.
Earnhardt is just one of many athletes who reach out to these children. Just recently he reached a milestone during the NASCAR All-Star weekend on May 22-23, when he granted Jeffrey Buzzell of Hermon, Maine, who has Alport syndrome, with wish No. 200.
Buzzell, who is only 15 years old, has been a fan of NASCAR for a number of years and always wanted to meet his hero, along with wanting to know how a NASCAR team operates from the inside.
After arriving by a limousine, Jeffrey and his family were given a tour of JR Motorsports, a 66,000-square-foot facility that serves as the heart of Earnhardt Jr’s racing operation and business interests.
Buzzell said that after, “A few seconds after getting out of the limo, I saw Dale come out of his garage and walk towards me. I didn’t know what to do or think.”
“All I remember was putting one hand on my chest and shaking his with the other. I had the time of my life and I will never forget my amazing trip or the amazing people I met.”
After the tour of the facility they went to Dale’s home and raced go-karts on his private go-kart track.
On Saturday, before the race, Jeffrey took a tour of the garage and pit area, took part in driver introductions and watched Earnhardt and the other NASCAR drivers battle it out at Charlotte Motor Speedway from the Joe Gibbs suite.
With the help of many bighearted donors and nearly 25,000 volunteers, the Make-A-Wish Foundation grants a wish every 40 minutes and has granted more than 193,000 wishes in the United States since it began.
Stories such as this one are becoming more and more common, and all it takes is the participation of a parent or legal guardian of a child who has reached the age of 2-and-a-half and is under the age of 18 who may be eligible to receive a wish.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation, together with the critically acclaimed SportsCenter "My Wish" will air highlights of the boy’s day with Earnhardt on Monday, July 19, on the 6 p.m. edition of ESPN’s SportsCenter, as part of the SportsCenter “My Wish” series.
For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit wish.org and discover how you can share the power of a wish.