The NASCAR Foundation hosted the fourth of six of its popular Speediatrics Fun Day Festivals this week and this one was extra special. It actually took two days.
Similar to the foundation’s other Fun Day Festivals, on Friday 250 local children participated in a variety of NASCAR-themed field day activities: "Looking for Lug Nuts" … "Pit Stop Challenge" … "Gas Can Relay" … Goodyear Tire Race … and "Pinewood Derby."
But there was a wonderful Daytona-specific wrinkle this time around.
The children were surprised with new bicycles. And to make sure they were able to safely operate their bikes, The NASCAR Foundation partnered with the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma to provide each child with a bike helmet, fitted to them by volunteers who are certified helmet-fitters from sheriff departments in Flagler and Seminole counties and other organizations. There were also bike safety demonstrations that included the proper use of hand signals, reflectors and helmets.
Bicycles were built on Saturday and will be given next week to the children who attended the event. Specially invited teams were on hand Saturday to complete the build process, including squads consisting of NASCAR crew members from the Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing organizations.
For some of the children receiving bicycles, it’s about more than fun. In some area school districts, children living within two miles of their school are ineligible to ride a bus.
"So the bikes will not only help them stay active, but will serve as a mode of transportation during the school year," said Nichole Krieger, executive director of The NASCAR Foundation. "We have 250 kids, 250 helmets and 250 bicycles we are matching up. We needed two days. The bikes are going through ‘inspection’ today, to make sure they are ready.
"What a gratifying project. When we told the kids on Friday about the bikes, you could see their eyes light up."
"We love it; most of us have kids at home and this is something we can do to give back to these [local] kids," said Jeremy Bullins, car chief for Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford driven by Ryan Blaney.
A number of current NASCAR drivers took part over the two-day event, including four from Richard Childress Racing. That group included the 2018 DAYTONA 500 champion Austin Dillon, who helped fit children with helmets on Friday. Dillon was joined at the festival by teammates Daniel Hemric, Tyler Reddick and Joe Graf Jr.
Three other NASCAR drivers also participated – Joey Gase, Austin Hill and Scott Lagasse Jr. – as did 15-year-old Pro Late Model driver Daniel Dye.
"It’s just giving back," Dillon said. "It’s cool to see The NASCAR Foundation and the Childress Institute coming together to give away bikes to all these kids, to let them have fun but teach them about safety, too. Any time you can give back to the future … that’s what this is. These kids are the future of our country."