Speedway Charities hands out more than $915,000

12/03/2013 10:20 PM

12/04/2013 7:16 AM

Editor’s note: This report has been changed from the original to correct the name of the organization that encouraged the larger-than-usual grant to the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center.

Jonas Martinez has had much to worry about in his 11 years.

The Fort Worth boy’s leukemia was diagnosed seven years ago. Since then, he has endured countless treatments at Cook Children’s Medical Center, but he is in his second remission.

At the Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas tree lighting and grant ceremony Tuesday evening at Texas Motor Speedway, Jonas said he wants to be a doctor so he can help other kids with leukemia someday.

“I used to be scared of everything,” he said, “but I’m not now. My life is just happy, because I have a loving family and my doctors and nurses who help me and love me.

“They are my second family.”

Jonas and 16 other children from Cook Children’s were among 100 patients from area pediatric hospitals who received new bicycles Tuesday from Speedway Charities.

The organization also awarded more than $915,000 in grants to Fort Worth and Dallas organizations that work with children.

It brought the charity’s total donations since 1997 to almost $9.5 million.

The largest this year, a $500,000 grant to the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, was the biggest single grant in the 16-year history of Speedway Charities.

“It is just tremendous,” said Pat Brown, director of strategic development for the research center. “Children as a whole have fewer numbers of cancers than adults, but they’re kind of an underserved population as far as research dollars being allocated.”

The Silver Dollar Ranch Committee encouraged the larger-than-usual donation for children’s cancer research, speedway spokesman Mike Zizzo said. The committee organizes an annual fundraiser for pediatric oncology initiatives. The chairman of the committee, Sherri Hale, is also a board member of Speedway Charities.

Zizzo said the request “kind of hit lightning in a bottle” because a lot of the money came from an auction for a private concert by Jack Ingram that yielded a $200,000 bid.

“Because two people were bidding on it, he decided to do both, so it raised $400,000,” Zizzo said.

Another big winner from Fort Worth on Tuesday was the Fort Worth Public Library, which received a $125,000 “Founder’s Grant.” It will fund the proposed “Fast Track to Reading” corner in the Hazel Harvey Peace Youth Center of the Central Library in downtown Fort Worth.

Included in the wing will be a racing-themed setting with murals of race cars, along with books about motor sports and transportation, said Betsy R. Pepper, founder, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Public Library Foundation.

But, she said, “the most exciting part” is that TMS officials have promised to bring professional race drivers to the Fast Track corner each race weekend to read to children.

“We think a lot of parents will be bringing their children to the library,” Pepper said.

Other beneficiaries included: Camp John Marc in Bosque County, $125,000; NASCAR Ride of a Lifetime, $53,650; CALF Program (Cowtown Marathon Inc. program), $25,000; Feed the Children, $16,800; Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, $15,000; Kids Who Care (Fort Worth), $15,000; The WARM Place (Fort Worth), $10,000; Cancer Care Services (Fort Worth), $24,190; Recovery Resource Council (Fort Worth), $5,000.

The entertainment Tuesday night was provided by carolers from the Keller Middle School mixed choir and Choralaires. Santa Claus lighted a 66-foot Douglas fir that speedway officials said is the biggest living Christmas tree in the Metroplex. The tree was a gift from the Ben E. Keith food company.

Staff writer Terry Evans contributed to this report.

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