Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gives Back
by Tom Jensen April 15, 2022
Third-generation racer has made philanthropy an integral part of his career during his driving days and afterwards.
There are many ways to define what makes a Hall of Fame career.
Statistics, of course, are a big part: How many races and championships did a racer win? How long did they compete? Did they win NASCAR majors like the Daytona 500 or Southern 500?
Those are all objective, measurable numbers. But not everything is about quantifying accomplishments.
What competitors do off the track counts, too.
In the case of Class of 2021 inductee Dale Earnhardt Jr., much of his off-track work has centered around philanthropy. He formed the Dale Jr. Foundation in 2007 and since then the foundation has given away more than $8 million to charities that directly impact communities, schools and citizens.
The Dale Jr. Foundation supports five areas of giving: Empowerment, Education, Wellness, Hunger and Hope.
One of the charities Earnhardt has supported for many years is the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which was formed in 1980 to grant wishes to critically ill children. Some want to be police officers or firefighters or go to amusement parks. And other children want to meet their favorite race-car driver.
And that’s where Earnhardt comes in, meeting with children to give them an inside look at NASCAR racing and some quality time with their favorite driver.
In his artifact case in the Hall of Honor, hangs an award Earnhardt received from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The framed metal star celebrates the fact that Earnhardt granted 200 wishes to critically ill children.
It’s not just about providing financial support – although that is noble, too – it’s about giving of one’s time to make a dream come true for a critically ill child. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is guided by the fundamental belief that a wish experience can be a game-changer for a child with a critical illness.
The fact that Earnhardt has granted so many wishes – the number is now more than 250 wished granted – speaks volumes about his commitment to the charity and more importantly, the children looking for hope.
During the Hall of Fame Class of 2021 induction weekend, Earnhardt spoke about the importance of what supporting worthwhile causes meant to him.
“When I was a young driver, first coming into the sport, that’s what all the other drivers were doing,” Earnhardt said of the Make-A-Wish efforts. “My dad granted a lot of wishes, Jeff Gordon, all the people that I knew as drivers and guys I looked up to, I just was following their examples that they set for me. “
Earnhardt certainly had role models, including his father and other stars of NASCAR.
“Richard Petty was the best at being the standard of how you interacted with people,” said Earnhardt. “Not only your fans, but all NASCAR fans. There’s a million stories of him being around the race track until dark, signing autographs long after the race until the last person in line. That leaves an impression on you … and you are going to try to do what (he and other drivers) did.”
Richard Petty was the best at being the standard of how you interacted with people.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As for his work with Make-A-Wish and other organizations, the effort came naturally.
“All the charitable stuff, really, it comes from examples set before you,” Earnhardt said. “That was always part of the sport and what you were supposed to do. And when you were blessed, you’re supposed to turn around and bless others, allow others to be affected by the good things going on around you.
“We still try to continue that with the (Dale Jr.) Foundation. It’s awesome. You really see the impact that you have on somebody’s life first-hand. “
When you were blessed, you’re supposed to turn around and bless others.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr.
One of the best parts of the sport of NASCAR racing is the fact that so many drivers past and present have foundations to support their favorite charitable causes, whether it’s Make-A-Wish, pediatric and adult cancer research, supporting military veterans or fighting hinger. Like many of his fellow NASCAR stars, Earnhardt is making a difference in the real world.