Reality Check

Once a year I get a personal reality check. A reminder that constant travel, murky rule interpretations, myopic and crabby "columnists" whose calendars are stuck on 1964 and whiney drivers complaining about not getting enough attention truly don't matter.

Once a year I'm involved with an event called "The Angels in the Fairway" golf outing. It's a charity fundraiser for the Leukemia Research Foundation and a chapter called "Joey's Angels," named for a little boy named Joey who lost his battle with leukemia when he was only three-years-old. Joey loved the movie "Angels in the Outfield," so when the golf outing was created, we incorporated that theme into the event.

Joey was, and is, my Godson and his parents, Larry and Patty Mix, started this event nine years ago as a way to remember their son and raise money to help fight this horrific disease.

What started out as a somewhat minor outing has grown into one of the biggest charity golf outings in the country. More than 500 golfers, split into a morning and afternoon session, were on hand for this year's event at the Grand Geneva in Wisconsin last Friday. And the golf is just an excuse to have fun and support a good cause. Trust me, my golf game is the poster child for that statement.

That night, I was honored to emcee the dinner presentation for the ninth year in front of about 550 friends, family, co-workers, racefans and just plain people who heard about the event and wanted to help any way they could.

We've raised $1.1 million since the first outing, an incredible amount that is the result of a lot of hard work and a great deal of heartfelt care. Unfortunately, it's a drop in the bucket but from where I sit, it's a monsoon.

There are thousands of these kinds of outings and events held around the country every year and I'm sure they're all special in their own ways.

One thing they all have in common is the power to make us stop, think, reflect and be thankful for what we have in this life.

Racing is just a sport, or a job - just a sideshow attraction to what's really important. We should all watch and cheer and analyze and complain and argue - that's what entertainment is for. But never get so caught up in motorsports that we forget the things that really are meaningful.

I'm going to try to practice what I preach this year and carry with me the spirit of charity and hope being involved with this outing every year provides. I invite you to do the same, whether it be because of Joey's story or someone close to you or just because it's the right thing to do. Be thankful for the things we've been given, racing included. They can be taken away in a heartbeat.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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