I never imagined that I would actually be the inaugural winner of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award until my name was announced during the awards ceremony in Las Vegas. My immediate reaction was to make the “I Love You” sign, because love is the reason I was there in the first place. My heart is filled with love for the children of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB). Most of my life has been dedicated to helping the institute and being honored for my work by The NASCAR Foundation was very humbling.
When I was 27 years old I received Talladega’s citizen of the year award. Now, almost 60 years later, I still feel as passionate about volunteering as I did back then. My nickname “The Ice Cream Man” started about 30 years ago when I decided to serve ice cream to the kids at AIDB. One day I thought to myself: “The children are all getting good food, but are they getting ice cream?” It thrills me to see the different colors of the Superman ice cream all over their faces. I know I enjoy it just as much as they do because seeing a child’s smile is a dream come true.
The NASCAR Foundation has combined philanthropy and the racing community, two things that both mean a lot to me. My time as a NASCAR fan began when the Talladega track was built years ago. I just loved watching the cars go around the track at the first race! The honor of winning the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award and being recognized by the NASCAR community made me feel like I hit a home run! An endowment for younger children was set up in the name of Betty Jane France and myself with the $100,000 donation. It will be used to continue supporting the younger children that come through the institute.
I strongly encourage others to nominate themselves or someone they know for this great opportunity. Four finalists will be selected and the winner will receive a $100,000 donation to the charity of their choice and a brand new 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid. The other three finalists will receive $25,000 donations for their selected charities. Nominations are being accepted until May 31 at NASCAR.COM/foundation.
Robert Weaver is the 2011 recipient of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award from the NASCAR Foundation