As both a series title sponsor and the Official Entertainment Provider of NASCAR, Comcast has made it a priority to bring fans closer to the sport than ever before. As a company, we are also fully committed to making a positive impact in local communities, which is why we are so proud to have established the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award.
Last year, we introduced the award to recognize charitable efforts conducted by those in the NASCAR industry. One finalist was chosen from each of NASCAR’s top three touring series: the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. As a result, Comcast awarded each finalist with a $30,000 donation to their affiliated charity; the winner, announced at the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series Banquet this past November, received a total of $60,000 toward his charity.
Six months later, as we ramp up for the 2016 Comcast Community Champion of the Year, the stories behind these donations have come to life for each of these three finalists: Martin Truex Jr., Martha Nemechek and Comcast Community Champion of the Year winner Joey Gase.
For 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship contender Martin Truex Jr., our $30,000 contribution has allowed the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation to continue its mission of helping those with pediatric and ovarian cancers, a cause close to his heart after longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2014.
"People sometimes say, ‘It’s just an honor to be a finalist,’ and you might think, ‘Yeah, right.’ But for me, it was true," says Truex. "I was in such great company with my NASCAR colleagues, and to be part of the first year was awesome for driving awareness of the work we are doing with the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation."
Martha Nemechek, who was selected as a finalist on behalf of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has long been a part of the NASCAR family. As the mother of former NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Joe Nemechek and grandmother of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver John Hunter Nemechek, she has exhibited strength and poise in the face of devastation when her youngest son, John Nemechek, passed away in 1997 following a racing accident at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Over the years, she has devoted her life to various causes, all with the intention of helping others deal with personal losses themselves.
"I am thankful to Comcast for supporting my personal efforts over the years, and was privileged to represent the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the award," says Nemechek. "An award like the Comcast Community Champion of the Year reflects giving on a grander scale in general."
The funds donated from Comcast on Martha’s behalf were given to the Travis Manion Foundation, an organization that seeks to empower veterans and families of the fallen by encouraging them to help and build up others. The donation will sponsor an Expedition where these families will complete a service project for a military veteran.
The inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year winner, Joey Gase, has channeled his career as a NASCAR XFINITY Series driver into a platform for education on organ donation. After suddenly losing his mother to a brain aneurysm when he was only 18 years old, he found out later that the decision he made to donate her organs ended up saving the lives of 66 people.
"The Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award has affected my life and my cause, which is raising awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation, greatly," says Gase. "Since the award, I’ve had people come up to me almost every race weekend to tell me they are now organ donors because of my mom’s story – many of which learned her story at the NASCAR XFINITY Series banquet."
An Iowa native, Joey has worked closely with Iowa Donor Network over the years to promote his cause and continue educating those on the importance of becoming a registered donor. We were able to donate $60,000 on behalf of Joey to continue these efforts, which will include a special event at Iowa Speedway during the NASCAR race weekend in June.
"Without the donation from Comcast, Iowa Donor Network would not be able to provide many of the services that we offer, including education to the public and healthcare providers on organ donation, donor family follow-up and care, driver’s education programs and special outside events," says Tony Hakes, the organization’s Public Outreach Manager.
We have seen so many powerful stories come out of the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award in just the first year. We’re looking forward to the stories that will surface as the award enters its second year, and can’t wait to see how our contributions come to life once more.