Racers For Autism – 2016

Yesterday I mailed a check for $76,000 to the Autism Society of America! $76,000. I can’t believe how successful our event has become in just two years. Bryan and his car owner, Joe Dooling, hosted the 2nd Annual Racers For Autism event on January 11th at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event kicks off Chili Bowl week and I have to toot my own horn for a second – I think we did a pretty awesome job of doing that!

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Photo: Dylan Duvall

Last year, our first event raised over $40,000 for the Autism Society. With the help of the Autism Society and normal, expected growth, we were able to almost double what we did last year! I still can’t believe the turn out we had this year. Last year’s event was successful, but this year’s event was a PARTY! And a giant hit!

Bryan and I put so much effort – time, planning, stressing – into this, so it’s really rewarding being able to give such a HUGE donation to the Autism Society of America. There are so many people who are involved with the event and having all of that help and support makes things run just a little bit smoother! We had a huge support from sponsors this year – I want to give a special thank you to Todd and Susan LaHaise with Buffalo Wild Wings! I had so many people offer to help out on the day of the event and volunteer that night and I appreciate it, even if I did get a little bossy. Kelly Bacon is a rockstar and recruited a handful of ladies to help out at the event, so a giant THANK YOU! to Kelly for all of the help. My family, Bryan’s family – things wouldn’t have been as great as they were if I didn’t have all of you involved! Shout out to Brad at Cain’s Ballroom – he goes above and beyond to make sure everything is perfect for our event. He deals with my stressed-out-ball-of-nerves self… and he does it with a smile on his face!

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Photo: Collin Markle

Tim Dugger – he killed it. Hands down the best part of our event! Listening to Tim play was an absolute blast, and the pictures from the dance floor from the end of the night prove it! I think Tim had as much fun as we all did, so good news for all of you new Tim Dugger fans – we want to have him back next year!

The most special part of the night for me was looking around the room and seeing all of our friends there supporting a cause that is so important to us. I had people calling and texting me the night before the event wanting to donate things for the silent auction – big things, like a Kyle Larson firesuit! We couldn’t raise as much money as we did without awesome auction items, so thank you to everyone who donated something! We had some pretty cool stuff… might be hard to top that next year, but we will sure try to! It means the world to me to have our friends support what we’re doing. It’s also really heartwarming to see everyone treat Ben like a superstar, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

You probably know by now, but the inspiration behind this event is our friend Ben. Ben just turned 23-years-old and he has autism. Ben is Bryan’s biggest fan and supporter, so we decided we wanted to do something for him. Our goal with this event is to spread awareness and acceptance for autism – and I think we’re doing a pretty darn good job at it! By raising so much money for the Autism Society, we’re helping them accomplish their goals: supporting autism education, awareness, advocacy, and assisting families living with autism.

Someone asked me what autism is to me. My answer? A thousand questions over and over. That’s Ben. That’s how he communicates. But for us, that’s ok. Yes, it gets frustrating and even annoying at times, but I have to remind myself that’s just how Ben’s mind works. My favorite thing about Ben is that he has no sense of hierarchy – he’s just as excited to see and talk to Tony Stewart as he is the kid who scrapes mud on Bryan’s midget. Everyone is equally important in his mind and I think we could all benefit from that mindset! Ben is extremely positive and always finds the best in a situation, even if it is something like “21st is great BC! You smoked that guy who finished last!”.

Over the last year, Bryan has had the chance to grow his relationship with the Autism Society. In May, we invited a group of families out to a day of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On race day, one of Bryan’s sponsors – Priority Aviation – donated 50 tickets to families with autism. We got the nicest letter from one of those families – the mom explained how they had always wanted to go to the Indy 500, but not knowing how their child would handle it, they never wanted to spend the money. When they were given free race tickets they decided they would go. She said it was an experience they never would have had if not for us. It’s such a great feeling hearing something like that. I look forward to growing this relationship even more! Bryan is a great advocate for autism because we deal with it on a personal level – We’ve seen the best and worst of Ben, but we love him for who he is. I don’t want to change Ben, but I do want him to have a fulfilling life.

We’re doing something great and it wouldn’t be what it is without the support of everyone in the racing community! So, one more time – thank you for making our 2nd Annual Racers For Autism event a success. Let’s do it again next year!

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