From Race Car Driver to Philanthropist
At the ripe old age of 20 Jeff Gordon paid his first visit to Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C. It was a PR guy who suggested the idea of visiting children in hospitals, and at the time, Jeff didn’t really get it.
“That was eye-opening for me…realizing I could go in there, talk about what I do, sign an autograph…and give them pause from all the other stuff going on in their life that probably wasn’t too positive.”
Jeff continued making hospital visits, but about a year later the need for his help hit close to home when he learned that his crew chief Ray Evernham’s one-year-old son, Ray J, had been diagnosed with leukemia. For the better part of a year Jeff watched as Ray’s little boy faced chemotherapy, radiation and long hospital stays.
By 1995, Jeff was quickly becoming the most requested NASCAR driver for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He soon discovered that the majority of these kids with life-threatening illnesses had cancer. Seeing the physical and emotional toll this disease takes on kids and their families deepened Jeff’s desire to learn about the science of cancers in children.
“I never wanted to do anything but be a racecar driver, and I know how lucky I am to have been given the chance to live my dream. Now I want to find a way to give kids battling cancer a shot at living their dream, too.”
He established the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation in 1999, primarily dedicated to accelerating childhood cancer research. Since then, JGCF also has helped open the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital in Concord, N.C. and the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in Rwanda. Through your generous contributions, the Foundation continues to support these and other worthy programs.
“I’m a competitive guy. Anyone who knows me will tell you I can’t stand to lose. I’ve never faced anything on the racetrack as tough as childhood cancer. But I won’t stop until I beat it.”