By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Although it is the offseason for most of the NASCAR and motorsports community, the community came together to raise awareness for victims of child abuse. NASCAR drivers, Hall of Famers, and personalities alike visited with race fans at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. on December 5, 2017 for the 29th Annual Stocks for Tots event. The event is hosted by the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
Stocks for Tots is the brainchild of former Team Penske President Don Miller and driver Rusty Wallace. It benefits the Iredell County chapter of SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) as well as children’s hospitals in the area. In Stocks for Tots’ 29 years, the event has raised over $1 Million for charity and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of toys to children and families.
Miller recalled the origins of the concept of Stocks for Tots, “Back in 1989, Rusty Wallace and I were putting together a race team. We were out to breakfast one day and a man came up to us and said, ‘are you two guys the ones starting that race team over there?’ I said yes and he said, we’d like to talk to you about putting something together to raise some money for children. One thing led to another and were we talking about what we could do. Rusty and I both had children and we said, let’s have a big car show, but we’ll have it with all of the racers.”
“One thing led to another,” Miller continued, “We talked to the people in the city here in Mooresville. They asked us if we could possibly use the Armory. It was big enough, we should be able to do that. Pretty soon we had the thing put together and it was right at Christmas. We made it a fundraiser for children and Christmas and we called it ‘Stocks for Tots.’”
The 29th Annual Stocks for Tots saw no less than 500 fans participate. The event was separated into three different sections. The three sections consisted of a Legends Room with retired drivers, owners, and Hall of Famers, a Celebrity Room with today’s stars and personalities, and a silent auction. Fans got to meet, take pictures, and get autographs with legends including Hall of Famers Leonard Wood, Bobby Allison, and Donnie Allison, current drivers Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, and John Hunter Nemechek, as well as TV and radio personalities Ralph Sheheen, Dave Moody, and Larry McReynolds, among many others.
“It’s just fabulous,” Miller said in reference to the turn out. “When you really get down to it, we all have an opportunity from time to time to do something. But unless we get that little extra push, it’s easy to say, well I’ll get it next time. To have all of these people to give up their time and come in just meet the people, be part of the community, and help turn this around. I don’t think there’s words that can be used to describe it.”
Race fans also got to participate in a silent auction with the proceeds benefitting Stocks for Tots. Everything up for auction was donated by drivers, race teams, and area businesses. Apparel, diecast, paintings, sheetmetal, and visors were just some of the items up for auction. Some items that were auctioned were bought and then autographed by the driver or legend on the spot.
Current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, and 2017 Playoff contenders Busch and Newman participated in the event. Busch found the event as a fun way of meeting with fans and being with his racing family while helping the community,
“It’s fun to come out and support friends, family, and our local community. Stocks for Tots has always been close to my heart because of Don Miller, when I met him at Penske Racing (now-Team Penske). It’s neat to see old friends and be in the autograph line with a lot of legends in our sport. It’s just neat to see everyone come together.”
To Newman, this is just a continuation of NASCAR’s message of support in the community,
“This is not the offseason. The offseason is an offseason from racing. We’re still doing our best to talk about the sport, what we can do to raise awareness, and help with things that make a difference. This is our opportunity during the offseason here with Stocks for Tots. What Don Miller and the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame do is special for the Mooresville-North Carolina-South Carolina area. I’ve been around here for 17 years and I’ve been to 16 of these, always a big supporter.”
If you wish to donate to Stocks for Tots, you can call the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame at (704) 663-5331.