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A friend and neighbor: teen advocate is recognized by NASCAR

November 8, 2011 2 comments

This guest blog post is by 17-year-old Autism Speaks St. Louis chapter volunteer Jake Bernstein. He is one of NASCAR’s 4 finalists for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. If Jake wins, Autism Speaks will receive $100,000. To vote for him, visit: http://foundation.nascar.com/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=1414

You cannot pick your neighbors.  We got lucky.  Max and Charlie are my adorable neighbors.  They are seven-year old identical twin boys on the autism spectrum. Charlie and Max often stop over our house to visit.  We all look forward to seeing them.  Max likes to use our iPad. Charlie is more interested in helping us with household tasks. One day he decided to try to help clean up my bedroom.  My bedroom is quite messy. Charlie entered my room and started picking up papers. I was touched.

Max and Charlie would see me carrying my tennis racket to school each morning during the high school tennis season. They would ask me questions about tennis.  Since both boys were intrigued by my tennis racket, I asked their parents if I could provide them with tennis lessons.  The boys’ parents welcomed the idea and shared that there were limited physical, social and recreational opportunities for autistic youth.   Their interest in my racket was the motivation to create a social and recreational opportunity for my neighbors and other children on the autism spectrum who often lack extracurricular outlets.

Planning a weekly tennis clinic is similar to arranging a game of tennis just on a much grander scale.  Tennis supplies and court space were graciously donated by our local Parks and Recreation Department.  I contacted the local chapter of Autism Speaks for guidance and suggestions on promoting the free tennis clinic.  Barbara Goode from the St Louis chapter of Autism Speaks graciously offered to promote the free clinic on Facebook, Twitter and with email blasts. I also posted the request for volunteers in our local newspaper, my volunteer Facebook page and Twitter postings @stlvolunteen.   There was tremendous outpouring of interest from area high school students to volunteer which allowed us to provide individualized instruction for each child. Each week the children and volunteers returned eager and enthusiastic for another tennis lesson.

My grandmother spotted the information online about the Betty Jane France award for volunteer service.  She nominated me for the award.  I was truly surprised and honored to be selected as a finalist for the award.  Each finalist is given the opportunity to donate $25,000 with the potential for an additional $75,000 to the organization of their choice: I chose Autism Speaks. I know that this monetary donation to Autism Speaks has the opportunity to better many kids’ lives.  The time I spend with Max and Charlie has changed the way I see the world.  The boys can find joy in the smallest object. They have taught me to do the same. It is wonderful to learn from these two little boys.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Jake for his support of the autism community, and we encourage everyone to vote for him to win the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award by visiting:http://foundation.nascar.com/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=1414

Congratulations to Denny Hamlin on his NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Win

June 20, 2011 2 comments

Congratulations to Denny Hamlin for claiming his first victory of the season in Sunday’s Heluva Good! 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Denny was able to hold off Matt Kenseth, crossing the finish line a mere .281 seconds ahead! Way to go Denny!

Click here for more on the Heluva Good! NASCAR Sprint Cup Race.

Denny Hamlin  piloted the No. 11 FedEx Autism Speaks Toyota at the FedEx Autism Speaks 400. and you can check out his Die-Cast Car here!

The FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks delivers

May 26, 2011 1 comment

It’s been a couple of weeks since the “FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks,” but we’re still feeling the love from our friends in NASCAR community.  The race weekend, May 13-15, was an overwhelming success thanks to our partners at FedEx, Dover International Speedway and Dollar General.  Here’s a recap in case you missed all of the excitement on TV.

On Friday, May 13, Autism Speaks rolled into Dover International Speedway ready to raise funds and spread autism awareness.  Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr kicked off the day with a live interview on the SiriusXM radio show “The Morning Drive.”  Roithmayr and host Mike Bagley discussed Sunday’s Sprint Series race and the ways NASCAR fans can help raise autism awareness.  Later in the day, Mark was joined by FedEx No. 11 Toyota driver Denny Hamlin for a press conference at the speedway’s media center.  In addition to featuring a special Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo schemed car, FedEx would donate $100,000 Autism Speaks if Hamlin won the race.  Following the press conference,  Red Horse Racing Competition Director Terry Cook treated everyone to a tour of the truck series team’s trailer.  Terry and his wife are wonderful autism advocates within NASCAR community.  A special thanks to Terry and the Red Horse Racing team for featuring theAutism Speaks puzzle piece logo on the hood of their No. 17 truck.

Saturday began with another Mark Roithmayr radio interview on SiriusXM radio, followed by a check presentation ceremony with our friends at Dollar General prior to the start of the Nationwide Series race.  Rick Dreiling, CEO of Dollar General, Reed Sorenson, driver of the Dollar General No. 32 Chevy and his crew chief Trent Owens, who is a parent and autism advocate, presented Autism Speaks with a check for an amazing $1,193,256.  In an effort to raise funds for the autism community, in April, Dollar General partnered with Autism Speaks for a month long fundraising campaign and Reed’s No. 32 Chevy was adorned with theAutism Speaks puzzle piece logo, helping to spread autism awareness from racetrack-to-racetrack throughout Autism Awareness Month.  Late Saturday afternoon, Jacob Boenizi, a special guest of FedEx and Autism Speaks arrived in Dover.  After his mom posted o nAutism Speaks’ Facebook page that Jacob, an 11 year old on the spectrum from Mesa, AZ, was a huge NASCAR and Denny Hamlin fan, he was invited by FedEx to serve as the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s Sprint Series race.

Sunday…Sunday…Sunday. Sprint Cup Series race day!  All of the families who were guests of Autism Speaks received a special treat courtesy of FedEx.  They met with driver Denny Hamlin in the FedEx suite prior to the start of the race. Denny took time out of his busy schedule to sign autographs and take pictures with all of the kids, including his biggest fan, Jacob.  In addition to hanging out with Denny, Jacob went on a tour of pit row and met NFL legend Joe Gibbs.  Shortly thereafter, Denny joined Mark Roithmayr for a live pre-race interview on the SPEED channel to talk about NASCAR’s commitment to autism awareness.  While walking back from the interview, it was wonderful to see almost every car lined up in pit row featuring an Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo  —  a heartfelt show of support from the NASCAR community.

Time for the start of the big race.  Jacob joined Mark onstage for driver the introductions, where they met NASCAR hall of famer Bobby Allison, and greeted the likes of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Denny Hamlin also presented Autism Speaks with a check for $50,000 from FedEx to goes towards vital research and advocacy initiatives.  As grand marshal, Jacob was given the special honor of announcing “gentleman start your engines” prior to the start of the race.  Standing before thousands of fans and on live national television, the young fan from Mesa nailed it, spurring a huge ovation from crowd.  It was truly an inspiring moment for everyone in attendance to hear Jacob says those words with such determination and confidence. He was the perfect ambassador for the autism community. Be sure to see for yourself:

Although Denny Hamlin didn’t win (Matt Kenseth finished first), the Sprint Cup Series race was a huge success thanks to FedEx, Dover International Speedway and all of our friends at NASCAR who worked hard throughout the weekend to bring attention to the needs of families and individuals affected by autism.  Thanks to everyone’s efforts, a message of understanding and hope prevailed in Doverand was broadcasted by FOX on televisions across the country.  In addition, a young NASCAR fan on the spectrum was given the experience of a lifetime.  You couldn’t ask for a better finish when the checkered flag finally waved, signaling the end of a memorable weekend.

We snapped plenty of pictures from the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks. To view them, visit the Autism Speaks Facebook page.

Tune In: FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks on Sunday, May 15

May 14, 2011 7 comments

On May 15, NASCAR comes to Dover International Speedway! Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks starts at 1 p.m. EST on Fox. Look out for the #11 FedEx/Autism Speaks car driven by Denny Hamlin. If he wins, FedEx donates an additional $100,000 to Autism Speaks! Check local listings for time and channel in your area.

The #11 FedEx Toyota Camry NASCAR Sprint Car

Autism Speaks 400 – Final Day

May 17, 2010 4 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks Blog contributor Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a junior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He is currently working at Autism Speaks as a writer.

Sometimes you don’t have the words to express your amazement at a series of events.  That was me after witnessing the Autism Speaks 400 on Sunday, May 16.  But luckily for the readers, I’ve come back to earth and I’m ready to blog. Enjoy!

Sunday was another great day for driver Kyle Busch.  Busch dominated the weekend.  Almost winning Friday’s Camping Truck Series race, then winning Saturday‘s Heluva Good 200 Nationwide Series race.  On Sunday he completed his great weekend by winning the Sprint Cup Series Autism Speaks 400 Race. What made Kyle so special this weekend was his aggressive, winning attitude. I had the opportunity to watch Kyle accept his trophy in victory lane. That positive, winning mentality was evidenced by the smile on Kyle’s face as he accepted his award.  His confident winning manner is well known on the NASCAR circuit and indicates he will continue his winning ways.

Although many had Kyle winning before the race had even started, driver Jimmie Johnson was competed closely with Kyle all day long.  However, after 365 laps, Johnson had a disastrous pit stop.  He received a passing penalty, which put  him a lap down to Busch, ruining his chances to win. This led to Jimmie Johnson finishing in 16th place.

Two of Sunday’s best stories came from driver Jamie McMurray and FOX Sports Senior Executive and Autism Speaks Board Member Artie Kempner. Both of these gentlemen have done amazing work for NASCAR and also for Autism Speaks. Jamie spent several minutes talking to fans along with giving me an interview. Artie Kempner said it best, “Jamie does more than just drive a race car”. Jamie has a passion for helping others and his family has been touched by Autism. When asked about the race, Jamie said “This is a really cool weekend. Awareness is something unique to our sport. To have a race, not named after a bank or a product, it’s something very special. The race is something very special to me because my niece is autistic.”  Jamie, during the time with the fans signed several autographs and made a lot of people’s days just like mine; special.

As a final note of the day I would just like to thank Jamie, Artie Kempner and the Alpha Xi Delta Sorority for volunteering at three Autism Speaks booths outside of the race way. The Sorority sold Autism Speaks memorabilia to help in the fight against autism.  Finally, I’d like to thank everyone at Autism Speaks, NASCAR, and HERSHEY’S Milk & Milkshakes for such a great weekend.

I’m already looking forward to the race next year and am hoping you enjoyed the blog the past couple of days. As a bonus for our readers, below are several photos from this weekend’s events. Thank you all!

* Read the Day 1 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400
* Read the Day 2 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400

Autism Speaks 400 Day 2

May 16, 2010 5 comments

TUNE IN UPDATE: Coverage of the “Autism Speaks 400 Presented by HERSHEY’S® Milk & Milkshakes” will air on FOX Sports today, May 16, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EST.  Check your local listings for details.

This guest post is by Autism Speaks Blog contributor Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a junior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He is currently working at Autism Speaks as a writer.

Hello all and welcome to Day 2 of Race Weekend! Saturday was a terrific day at Dover International Speedway. The day’s events surrounded the Nationwide Series Race. I was on the run all day but got an opportunity to meet several members of the Dollar General Stores Toyota racing team. Many thanks to them for letting me see some of the behind the scenes sights of Race Weekend. Yesterday would not have been the same without your generosity. Now moving on to the races…

Driver Kyle Busch (Combos Toyota) left Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race upset that he let his lead slip away in the final few laps. Saturday, Kyle was prepared to not let the same mistake occur. When the race day was done, Busch (who didn’t run out of fuel today after running out of gas in the Trucks Race) was victorious in the Heluva Good 200 Nationwide Series race (Saturday). Busch, who received a mix of boos and cheers all day from the race fans, shook the boos off as he took the checkered flag at the Monster Mile.  Busch will now try to go for back to back wins as he races Sunday in the Autism Speaks 400 Sprint Cup Series Race.

The other big story from Saturday came from drivers Jamie McMurray (K’Nex Chevrolet) and Reed Sorenson (Dollar General Stores Toyota). Both these drivers and their teams have meant a lot to Autism Speaks in spreading awareness of autism. Both drivers performed admirably with Jamie McMurray finishing in 3rd after starting in pole position 27 and Reed Sorenson finishing in 4th after starting in 14th. Both have a lot to be proud of from finishing as strongly as they did.

We are now down to our final day (Sunday) of Race Weekend. We here at Autism Speaks are expectantly waiting for a thrilling finish (the Autism 400) to what has been an amazing weekend. We will keep you posted through the Autism Speaks Blog (along with Twitter) all day long todayand hope you enjoy what is to come!

*Read the Day 1 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400 

Autism Speaks 400 Day 1

May 15, 2010 7 comments

TUNE IN UPDATE: Coverage of the “Autism Speaks 400 Presented by HERSHEY’S® Milk & Milkshakes” will air on FOX Sports this Sunday, May 16, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EST.  Check your local listings for details.

This guest post is by Autism Speaks Blog contributor Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a junior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He is currently working at Autism Speaks as a writer.

Autism Speaks is off to the races! Today marked the first day of the Autism Speaks 400 Race Weekend presented by HERSHEY’S Milk & Milkshakes. This was my first day ever at a NASCAR race and first time in the great state of Delaware so I was very excited (to say the least) to be a part of this experience. For the next 3 days I will be sharing with you my thoughts from the races. Without further ado here we go!

Yesterday’s events included the qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday along with a Camping World Truck Series race. Starting off the day, we saw Martin Truex Jr. win the pole for Sunday’s race in his NAPA Toyota. He clocked a lap time of 157.315 mph and will now start the race in the inside of the first row (first pole position). A four time champion at Dover, he will have a chance to continue to build on his impressive Dover resume.

In the Camping World Truck Series race, Aric Amirola (driving for Toyota) won first prize. This was his first NASCAR Truck Race win. Defying expectations, he won this event after Kyle Busch led for a majority of the race.

This was a great way to start Dover Race Weekend. If the upset win of Amirola wasn’t enough, I had the thrill of seeing Autism Speaks blue and white logos painted on many of the cars racing today. These cars, with their logos, symbolize the commitment of Autism Speaks and NASCAR to the effort of autism awareness and finding a cure. One could compare the races to the search for a cure. It will be a long trip (400 miles on Sunday). But even though the race is long, regardless of who wins and who loses, the effort to spread autism awareness will be the ultimate winner when this race weekend is over.

*Read the Day 2 Recap from the Autism Speaks 400 

Get Ready for the Autism Speaks 400!

TUNE IN UPDATE: Coverage of the “Autism Speaks 400 Presented by HERSHEY’S® Milk & Milkshakes” will air on FOX Sports this Sunday, May 16, beginning at 12:00 P.M. EST.  Check your local listings for details.

This guest post is by Autism Speaks Blog contributor Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a junior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He is currently working at Autism Speaks as a writer.

Autism Speaks and NASCAR have joined once again. For the fourth consecutive year, the Autism Speaks 400 race weekend will be held at Dover International Speedway from May 14-15. The event is made possible through the strong partnership of Autism Speaks, The Dover Speedway and Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes.

As someone new to the NASCAR world, I’m very excited about the events that will be coming up.  I’m transitioning from final exams at college and traveling to the glamorous world of big time motor sports. Aside from this great opportunity for me, this is a great event for Autism Speaks.  Not only will the race bring awareness to the issue of autism in this nation, a percentage of the proceeds from the race will go to the cause of finding a cure.

There will be fierce competition during this race weekend. Currently, the “Chase for the Sprint Cup” is between two drivers, points leader Kevin Harvick (1467) and Jimmie Johnson (1457).  Jimmie Johnson, a 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion could take over first with a strong performance this weekend.

All of us at Autism Speaks are looking forward to a very exciting race and will keep you updated on (via the blog) on all the events that occur during race weekend.

Basic Info: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Autism Speaks 400

  • Where: Dover International Speedway
  • Partnership: Dover Speedway, Autism Speaks, Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes
  • When: May 14-16, 2010 race weekend
  • “Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes.”
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