NASCAR Anglers raise more than $100,000 for the Darrell Gwynn Foundation
On Friday February 13, 2009, during NASCAR's Daytona Week, more than thirty NASCAR drivers, celebrities and fans attended the 3rd Annual Darrell Gwynn Foundation Charity Fishing Tournament on Daytona Speedway's 29-acre infield Lake Lloyd. The annual event raised more than $100,000 for the Davie, Florida based Darrell Gwynn Foundation that funds paralysis research, spinal cord injury education and awareness, and customized wheelchairs for children and young adults. NASCAR driver Carl Edwards won the individual fishing tournament with a 4.2 pound bass. Edwards' group also won the team competition by catching a total of 8.5 pounds of fish. Among the other participants were Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Ryan Newman, Darrell Waltrip and Ken Schrader. Gwynn, former drag racing champion paralyzed in a racing accident, donated a portion of the tournament's proceeds to the Betty Jane France Pediatric Center "Speediatrics" unit at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach. The special unit, which is brightly decked out in a racing theme, helps children and families feel more comfortable amid beeping medical equipment and the constant parade of doctors and nurses. FlA Says:
My main man Darrell Waltrip does a great job of promoting and participating in this event. Other NASCAR super-legends like Richard Childress also heavily support the annual fundraiser. Over the years, Darrell Gwynn and his Foundation have been smart to work with NASCAR team owners and drivers for donations. The simple fact is the top NHRA drivers earn peanuts compared to the top NASCAR drivers. NASCAR team owners and drivers have the big money to significantly help Darrell's foundation, along with other worthy humanitarian organizations. ~ Video: Riki Rachtman covers Feb 2008
Darrell Gwynn Foundation Charity Daytona Fishing Tournament. Interviews Darrell Gwynn and NASCAR drivers at event. When Riki is on the scene there is always funny moments.
Photos: 1. Darrell Gwynn, Team Carl Edwards | 2. Carl Edwards with his winning catch |
3. Darrell and Ryan Newman | 4-5. Darrell "The Man" Waltrip and his Lake Lloyd "youngsters".
Disabled 5-year-old NASCAR fan gets her own wheels thanks to the Darrell Gwynn Foundation
Daytona Beach News Journal by Deborah Circelli
Feb. 16, 2009
Daytona Beach -- Two-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart knelt down, smiling as he tried to charm Alyssa Hagstrom while photographers snapped away. The bubbly pre-kindergartner, who turned 5 on Saturday seemed to care less that she was the center of attention being introduced to drivers such as Stewart, Carl Edwards and last year's Daytona 500 winner, Ryan Newman. She was comfy in her new set of wheels. The minute the cameras stopped flashing, Alyssa, who was born with a rare muscle disorder that prevents her from walking and having full movement of her arms, pressed her head against the wheelchair headrest, which powers the chair, and pronounced -- "I'm out of here," as she wheeled back down the dock Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
"Excuse me guys. Excuse me," she said to fans and drivers, who had just finished a charity fishing tournament to benefit people with spinal cord injuries and other debilitating illnesses. Just an hour earlier, she started driving in her $26,000 power chair donated by the Davie-based Darrell Gwynn Foundation, started by Gwynn, a National Hot Rod Association champion. He lost his left arm and was paralyzed from the waist down in 1990 when his dragster hit a wall during a London exhibition.
Before the festivities with the drivers began, the Daytona Beach girl moved around the dock making new friends. "I know I'm a crazy driver," Alyssa said to a man on the dock. At one point, she went right up to Gwynn and Ricky James, 20, of California, who was injured in a 2005 motocross racing accident. "Hi! Hi!," she yelled to the two. "Daddy, all three of us are in wheelchairs." Before they could ask her a question, she zoomed away. "She sure is cute," Gwynn laughed. "Kids do amazing things the way they take to a machine like that." Alyssa, who attends Easter Seals Pre-Kindergarten Charter School in Daytona Beach and is an ambassador for Easter Seals "Walk With Me" fundraisers in April and May, also made an impression on the drivers. Stewart said it's exciting to see the children "get a new set of wheels." "She has no clue who any of us are, but 10 years down the road she'll be looking at pictures and it will be special to her," Stewart said.
Edwards, who was on the winning team for the fishing tournament on the Speedway's Lake Lloyd, said he first met Alyssa right before the fishing began, and just after she got her new chair. "She's like, 'Nice to meet you. Excuse me. I got to go,' " he laughed. "What (Gwynn) does for people is really special. It's an honor to be a part of it." Gwynn's foundation, which raised more than $100,000 at the local tournament, donated 37 wheelchairs last year and has donated about 100 since the foundation started in 2002. Money raised also helps Halifax Health Medical Center's "Speediatrics" unit for children. "I can't win races anymore because of my injury, but (this) is just like winning a race," said Gwynn, 47. "It's like a victory when you get to change somebody's life." His goal is to give young people more independence after losing his own. "It's a club we didn't sign up for. We have to try to make the best of things," Gwynn said.
Alyssa's father, Duane Hagstrom, 35, a Flagler Palm Coast High School teacher, said his daughter doesn't let her disability stand in her way. She was born with arthrogryposis, a muscular atrophy in her extremities. Before getting the powered Chair, she was pushed in a stroller, a manual wheelchair or she simply rolled on the floor. At home, she gets help from her 7-year-old sister, her father's girlfriend, Milisa Carter, and Carter's two children. Hagstrom, who is divorced from Alyssa's mother and has cared for her since she was young, said his insurance denied the specialized chair. "She's so independent now," he said regarding her new wheels. "She's a normal 5-year-old other than the fact that she can't walk. At school last week, she played with fellow students on the floor before making paper hearts with her teacher for Valentine's Day. She said she "wants to be a girl that cooks" when she grows up and that she loves "playing outside with my friends and pretend like we're catching butterflies." "She is totally charming," her teacher Kathleen Carroll said. "She knows she can't walk, but that doesn't damper her spirit." Alyssa said her fellow students help her if a toy is too high on a shelf or getting around on the playground. Now with her new chair, she said, "I can chase everybody around outside."
Darrell, NASCAR President Mike Helton, and DGF wheelchair recipient