Finalists Set for Betty Jane France Award
October 9, 2011 | 12:05 P.M. EST
Greg Biffle (left) and NASCAR President Mike Helton (right) flank the four Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award nominees Robert Weaver, Brenda Doner, Jake Bernstein and Patty Aber on the Ford Stage Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
A 17-year-old who has helped more than 3,000 area youth become involved in various service opportunities … a New Jersey women who delivers hope for underprivileged children by providing them with books … an avid NASCAR fan who provides emotional healing for at-risk youth and families through animal-assisted activities … and an 83-year old Talladega, Ala.-native known across the region as "The Ice Cream Man" because of the many treats he delivers to deaf, blind and multi-disabled students.
And we thought the competition on the track was fierce in 2011.
The NASCAR Foundation announced today that the four individuals described above – Jake Bernstein, Patty Aber, Brenda Doner and Robert Weaver, respectively – are the four finalists for the inaugural Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, which recognizes outstanding charitable and volunteer efforts of selfless NASCAR fans.
Finalists’ volunteer resumes will be showcased on a national scale as fellow NASCAR fans across the country vote to determine who should receive a 2012 Ford Explorer from Ford and $100,000 for the children’s charity of their choice from The NASCAR Foundation. Voting begins today and will run through midnight on Dec. 1 on NASCAR.COM. Betty Jane France will announce the winner during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 2 (SPEED and MRN Radio, 9 p.m. ET), culminating the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week celebration in Las Vegas.
The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will honor the passionate commitment The NASCAR Foundation Chairwoman Betty Jane France has demonstrated on behalf of charities and community works throughout her life. France, the mother of NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, is credited with creating the "Speediatrics" concept, a pediatric unit with a racing-themed décor at both the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., and the Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Fla.
"I love the age range in this finalist foursome – from 17-year-old Jake to 83-year-old Robert," said Betty Jane France. "To see several generations of NASCAR fans represented here really honors our past, while also boosting our optimism for the future. Their good, meaningful work has benefited their respective communities greatly. And the fact that they also are NASCAR fans is something our entire industry can look to with pride."
Bernstein, referred to as "The NASCAR boy" by his high school librarian, spends his time outside the classroom volunteering with Autism Speaks. Completing an astounding 100 volunteer hours per month, Bernstein is involved in everything from tutoring and coaching to organizing and directing free summer tennis clinics for youth with autism. To encourage his peers to get involved within the St. Louis community, Bernstein and his sister launched a website to help recruit youth to volunteer on projects throughout the area. President Obama recently recognized Bernstein’s devotion to community service for young people in a back-to-school address at a local high school in Washington, D.C. Bernstein considers Rusty Wallace and Kasey Kahne his favorite drivers, even carrying a photo of Wallace in his wallet.
Aber, a Middletown, N.J. resident, has devoted the last 30 years of her life to serving others, with more than 1,700 total volunteer hours served. Most recently, Aber has focused her time and efforts on the Bridge of Books Foundation, an organization that shares the world and all its possibilities with at-risk children through books. Aber also attends a number of NASCAR races each year, where she spends her time volunteering with The NASCAR Foundation and cheering on her favorite driver, Kasey Kahne.
Doner, a Columbus, Ohio native, contributes time to NASCAR charities such as The Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation, in addition to working tirelessly for PBJ Connections, a non-profit organization she developed that provides emotional healing for at-risk youths with animal-assisted activities. Her innovative approach helps to improve self-esteem and foster healthy relationships with family and peers. Also an avid NASCAR memorabilia collector, Doner’s entire apartment is outfitted in NASCAR décor.
Weaver has been volunteering with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Foundation (AIDB) for more than 50 years. In addition to his monthly charitable endeavors, the 83-year-old dedicates 30 hours a week to helping children in the organization. His many contributions range from creating intramural basketball teams and bowling programs to teaching students how to ride tricycles. Also a passionate NASCAR fan, Weaver was once able to pair his hobby and his volunteer work when his favorite driver, Darrell Waltrip, hosted the AIDB’s annual fundraiser in 1986 – thanks to a request from Weaver himself.
All four finalists were determined by The NASCAR Foundation Board of Directors, from hundreds of applicants whom all made a significant impact on the lives of children through volunteerism or charitable work during the last five years. They received expense-paid trips to Kansas Speedway this weekend. The winner of the inaugural Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will receive an expense-paid trip to the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, in addition to the Ford Explorer and $100,000 to donate. The other three finalists will receive a $25,000 donation from The NASCAR Foundation to a children’s charity of their choice, as well as expense-paid trips to Las Vegas for Champion’s Week.
For more information about The NASCAR Foundation and the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, please visit NASCAR.COM/Unites.