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Night of Smiles sees record donations to children's charities

staff report • Nov 16, 2012 at 6:16 AM

BRISTOL — The Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities presented 87 children’s service organizations with a record-breaking $712,000 during the annual Night of Smiles event Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The number of organizations receiving grants also broke prior records for SCC, which today launches its largest annual fund-raiser: Ford Speedway In Lights.

It marks the event’s 16th year.

The $712,000 raised in the last year brings the total to more than $7 million raised by the Bristol Chapter of SCC, a non-profit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of needy children, over the past 15 years. In the last three years alone, nearly $3 million has benefited children’s agencies in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Also Thursday, the Jeff Byrd Grant — a $50,000 endowment established in honor of the former BMS president and general manager who passed away in 2010 — was awarded to Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

Claudia Byrd, executive director of the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, said the community’s support of SCC and its events is the primary reason the organization can offer aid to so many.

“It truly can’t be emphasized enough,” said Byrd, “the people in this region are absolutely the best. The support we receive is simply amazing. For us to be able to raise and distribute $712,000 to this many agencies speaks volumes about the giving and compassionate nature of our neighbors.

“We added more events this year, which means asking our volunteers for more of their time, and they continue to step up to the plate. Believe me, without all of those caring individuals we couldn’t do the things we do, we couldn’t raise the funds and couldn’t help as many kids. They have the biggest hearts in the world and we’re so fortunate to have them working with us.”

The Jeff Byrd Grant to Feeding America Southwest Virginia will allow the organization to hold summer health fair events for the next two years.

“Everybody who knew Jeff knows how much he loved kids and how important it was to him to be able to help them.” Byrd said of her husband. “Feeding America Southwest Virginia is going to be able to help about 1,800 children in the area over the next two summers, not just by providing food but also by teaching them how to live healthier lives. I think it’s a fantastic program and I know Jeff would feel the same way.”

Ford Speedway In Lights powered by TVA light show is open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Jan. 5. Tickets are available at the BMS gate. Ticket prices for cars are $12 Sunday through Thursday, and $15 Friday and Saturday. Activity van tickets are $20 each night and bus tickets are $85 each night.

New this year: entry to Ford Speedway In Lights is from Highway 394.

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