Speedway Children’s Charities awards donations

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Gina Moore said she is grateful for the support that ARTReach180, her after-school art therapy program for at-risk youth, has received over the years from Speedway Children’s Charities.

“Speedway Children’s Charities has been a strong stakeholder in this program because they helped us get started,” said Moore, director of programs for Crosswalk Ministries, which oversees ARTreach 180. “We got our first grant in 2009, which helped us to pilot ARTreach 180 in 2010.”

Speedway Children’s Charities recently awarded grants to several local non-profit groups. Recipients include A Friend’s House, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Henry County chapter of the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy. Special photo

ARTreach 180 received $5,000 from Speedway Children’s Charities during a ceremony held at AMS Dec. 6. Moore said the grant will help her program reach more people in the years to come.

“We really believe that we are ready to take the next steps to grow again,” she said. “Whether that’s by taking ARTreach to an adjacent county such as Clayton or DeKalb, or expanding within Henry County to open a youth center. It’s on our radar. It’s going to happen, we just don’t know when.”

Several donation checks were distributed to local nonprofit groups during the ceremony. Dec. 6. Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis, executive director of Speedway Children’s Charities at AMS, said the organization has granted more than $4 million since its launch in 1994, to children’s causes near the speedway.

“We are part of the Speedway Children’s Charities National family,” said Mathis. “All eight tracks owned by Bruton Smith have a chapter devoted to raising money ‘to care for children in educational, financial, social and medical need in order to help them lead productive lives.’ This is our mission statement.”

Mathis emphasized that Speedway Children’s Charities has a “long-standing relationship” with some of the organizations that received donations this month. In awarding the grants, she said, the Board of Trustees looks at the impact a charity is having, the number of children being served and the financial health of each charity.

“Some of the charities are very small,” said Mathis. “A $2,000 grant can mean the difference between continuing an impactful program or discontinuing one. We really have a heart for smaller organizations that are doing great things in the lives of children.”

A Friend’s House children’s shelter received a $5,000 grant to enable children in their foster-care facility to participate in extracurricular activities. Nan Jenkins, director of development for A Friend’s House, said the shelter has enjoyed consistent support from Speedway Children’s Charities.

She added that the shelter currently houses 18 children, and that caring for them would be difficult without grant funding.

“We are always excited to get grant funding, but especially from Speedway Children’s Charities because they have been a partner with us since before we opened our doors,” said Jenkins. “It just makes meeting these needs a lot easier.”

The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation also received $5,000, to purchase specialized car seats for pediatric trauma patients. Henry County 4-H got a $4,000 check for its educational program, helping kids to participate in competitions, leadership training, and service projects.

The Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy’s Henry County chapter received $3,000 during the ceremony. Patti Brown, chairperson for the Ferst Foundation in Henry, said she is “proud” to have had the support of Speedway Children’s Charities over the years.

“We’re a hometown charity, and it’s really nice to receive a benefit from them,” she said. “That $3,000 that they donated to us will help us send books for a whole year to around 83 kids. So that’s fantastic, and we thank them so much for all that they do, not only for us but the entire Georgia community.”

Action Ministries got a grant of $2,500 to provide meals for low-income children during school breaks.

The Henry Arts Alliance received $2,000 for its Music for Henry program, which provides musical instruments for children who cannot afford them so they can participate in band. The Carrie Steele-Pitts Home, which provides an after-school tutoring program for young people in its foster home and Bloom Our Youth, which provides counseling, therapy and other services for abused children, also received $2,000 each.

Camp To Belong received $1,000 to help reunite siblings placed in separate foster homes.

Speedway Children’s Charities holds fundraisers throughout the year, and particularly during race weekends, to facilitate donations. These events, added Mathis, include cornhole, golf and shooting tournaments as well as dinners, auctions and raffles.

“We also have some very generous corporate sponsors such as PPG and Single Source and other local businesses,” she said.

Speedway Children’s Charities is in the process of making donations to 14 additional organizations in Henry County. They include: $7,500 for Henry County Parks Therapeutic Sports’ Special Olympics program; $2,500 for Connecting Henry’s SWAG, GED and workforce development programs; $2,000 for the Calvin Center Equine Therapy program for children; and $2,000 to Honey Creek Youth Ranch, an Equine Therapy program for disabled, abused and neglected children.