ROOKIE WINNINGS GIVEN TO THE CHILDREN’S HOME IN ORLANDO
by Vicki Moyer
On March 16, not December 25, there were 22 packages wrapped in NASCAR gift wrap delivered not by way of a sleigh driven by a jolly, roly-poly man in a red suit, but by way of a six-foot-tall female race truck driver dressed in purple. It was just a pretty typical Friday at the Central Florida Children’s Home (CFCH) for its twenty-two residents. From the moment the kids learned of Kim Scheffler Hays’s upcoming visit, their faces beamed with huge smiles of anticipation. They recalled her previous visit when she arrived with her racecar filled with stuffed animals, joined them on the playground, and just spent time with them. On this day, though, they had no idea what surprise awaited them.
After sharing their talents on the playground equipment, the kids entered the living room to find a gift-wrapped box for each of them. Kim expressed to the kids how impressed she was with them, and this was a gift to show how much she believes in each of them and how proud she is of them. Then the moment arrived: "Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!" And the wrapping paper was off! One cannot find words to describe some of the facial expressions. The majority was a look of awe—ONE HUNDRED-ONE DOLLAR BILLS IN EACH BOX! Kim explained to the kids that this was their money to do with whatever they want. This money comes from Kim’s Rookie of the Year winnings and other money she has raised through Polk county businesses and individuals who believe in Kim’s dream. The local Wal-Mart and Publix donated the boxes and wrapping paper. Several minutes were spent counting, recounting, stacking, tossing bills in the air, simply running hands around in the box with all those bills. Smiles abounded! Finally Kim asked each child what he/she was going to do with his/her money. Many answered, "Save it," and "Put it in the bank." Other answers included, "Buy chocolate," and "Give 25% to the church and put 75% in the bank." The appreciation radiated from the children—their faces, their eyes. This appreciation and obvious respect for what they have and receive is just one of the CFCH kids’ character traits that captured the attention and six-foot heart of race truck and car driver Kim Scheffler Hays.
Kim first became aware of the CFCH when a racing associate e-mailed Kim regarding a fundraising event to benefit the Children’s Home. As Kim’s heart and one of her goals is "to touch as many people’s lives as possible using my racing career to help open the doors," some follow- up contacts were made. Kim inquired as to what was needed. Kim offered/agreed to participate in a "Celebrity Race" and other "feature" races. In fact she earned the NASCAR Nana trophy that day. Interestingly, prior to the fundraiser, another acquaintance mentioned to Kim a children’s home and its mission and a little about the kids who live there. This was the same children’s home. Following a personal appearance/safety talk with students at an Orlando elementary school, Kim stopped by the CFCH to deliver stuffed animals and spend some time with the kids. Of that experience Kim states she "fell in love with their attitude toward life." It seems quite obvious that God meant for these paths to cross/come together.
From the moment Kim met the kids she was impressed. These are "good kids." They display good behavior. Kim says, "They have good hearts"; they have positive "attitudes and outlooks" rather than anger that is so predominantly expressed in society in general today. The older kids have a very evident positive influence on the younger kids. Their appreciation for what they have and what they receive is evidenced by their respect for each other, their personal belongings, others’ belongings, their home, and of course their respect for Rachael and Jack Bradford who live, care for, and keep the routine running smoothly at the CFCH. The home is not state funded and runs by donations and fundraisers only.
Kim also says of the kids, "They are learning respect and responsibility which will get them through life. Becoming strong inside develops the bare essentials of what it takes to become a good citizen."
Kim Scheffler Hays drove away from the CFCH having achieved another goal. When asked why she was doing this—giving this money to the kids—Kim answered, "This money is being given to the kids for no particular reason other than to put a smile on their face," "to see a kid smile and let them know I am proud of how they act and behave considering what they have been handed in life. . . . They can believe in themselves!" Oh, how they smiled! Mission accomplished!
Kim compassionately expresses they "have nothing, but have everything because they have the most important things: stability, love, affection, and admiration."
Kids have a special place in the heart of this race truck driver. Kim hopes through her God-given talent and avenue of racing "to bring more awareness to organizations trying to make a difference, especially in children’s lives. Everything is based on what kids can do—they are our future" Auburndale Sun , 10/28/99, RE: "Eckerd 100 Salute to Women Award"). Kim wishes to give back to the community for their encouragement and support of her racing career. She uses her race vehicles to demonstrate and discuss to schoolchildren the importance of seatbelt, bicycle helmet, and fire safety. She expresses the importance of education and inspires the motivation to follow dreams. Kim is "very committed to helping in the community wherever there is a need." To Kim, personal/public appearances to raise awareness and to educate are as important as winning races. Kim made over 75 appearances in 2000 ranging from safety talks at schools to radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews, autograph sessions and charity events. Kim has received numerous awards for her ongoing charity work and has been named "Driver of the Year" and "Driver of the Month" in newspapers and racing publications. In just five years of racing, Kim has won 33 races, captured two track championships and three Rookie championships including the most recent 2000 PARTS Pro Truck Rookie of the Year. Kim is a respected competitor who is a devoted advocate to the sport of racing for the young and young at heart. She is a loyal spokesperson of the sport and is always thankful to the sponsors and fans as demonstrated by her charity work, community involvement, personal appearances, fan club, etc.
Kim is currently pursuing a racing team for the 2001 season. She is committed to providing a high level of success and pleasing her fans and sponsors both on and off the track. She continues to "drive" toward her racing goal of competing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
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