When I was initially approached about being on the panel to select the inaugural Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award, I was both honored and invigorated. Being able to recognize individuals who have championed a cause or made an impact on their community is something extremely close to my heart. I've seen first-hand what a difference one person can make, and I’m very much looking forward to the honor of serving on the judging panel and helping award potential candidates with this great award from Comcast.
In July 2014, I was diagnosed with advanced-stage breast cancer. I have undergone extremely aggressive treatment from seven-hour chemotherapy sessions, multiple surgeries, weeks of daily radiation and frequent hospital stays when my body started shutting down from the rigor of the process. I'm not finished yet and still have more surgery in front of me. But my spirit has always been strengthened by the support of so many in the NASCAR garage – in ways subtle and grand, a text message lifting me up on a tough day or painting a race track wall pink in honor of all who suffer, a donation to research funding.
What I thought I always knew about the decent goodness of people has been greatly reinforced as I deal with cancer. I was fortunate enough because of my job as a senior writer at NASCAR.com to be a part of several efforts to raise awareness for breast cancer, whether it was being mentioned by a driver in a press conference or having my name included among cancer survivors on a race car.
What I have learned covering NASCAR for more than 20 years, and now experiencing the effects of compassion and charity directly, is that this sport is overflowing with selfless people who truly want to make a difference in their community and the world. And they have the means and desire to make an impact—to change something for the better.
Quite often the good work isn't conducted under the glare of television cameras. Not only do some of NASCAR's big name drivers give back, but so do many others working in the garage, behind the scenes or back at the race shop. It may be a driver's girlfriend who tirelessly raises money and awareness. It may be a crew member donating to help someone financially in their hometown.
I've observed firsthand the impact a driver can make on a sick child just by spending a half hour with them, enough time to make them forget about being sick. I've seen what a driver's fundraising campaign can do to upgrade a hospital and how loaning someone the use of a private plane can make a life-changing difference.
I am intent to give back and help others as I have been supported and it's an idea and mission long embraced by the NASCAR industry.
What an important and wonderful thing for a new NASCAR partner like Comcast to come into the sport and immediately take the opportunity to acknowledge and honor those committed to making our communities better.
I have no doubt that the people ultimately bestowed with the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award will be lifted by the prestige of the honor. Not only will their good works be recognized and championed but they will inspire others. This is the true heart of the sport.