The four finalists for the NASCAR Foundation’s 2015 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award were announced Thursday morning.
The award, in its fifth year, is named after the wife of late NASCAR Chairman and CEO Bill France Jr. and honors volunteers who dedicate themselves to children’s causes in communities across the United States.
“This year’s finalists are ‘raising the bar’ for our award,” Betty Jane France said. “They have national stature but are community-oriented. Collectively, they have done an incredible amount of important work toward improving the quality of life for children in need.
“As we now go through the online process, our finalists will increase awareness of both the award and The NASCAR Foundation overall. They have wonderful, inspiring stories to tell, which is not surprising because they are wonderful people. We are very proud to call them our 2015 finalists.”
Fans are an integral part in the award, as they vote to decide the winner. Fans can vote until 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 3 at NASCAR.com/Award.
The NASCAR Foundation will award $175,000 to charities of the four finalists, with $100,000 to the award winner’s designated charity, and $25,000 to the designated charities of the other three finalists. The winner will also receive a 2016 Ford Fusion.
To date, the NASCAR Foundation has donated $700,000 to award finalists and impacted the lives of over 52,000 children in the country.
The winner will be announced Dec. 4 during the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet at Wynn Las Vegas. The banquet will be televised live on NBCSN starting at 9 pm ET.
The four finalists are:
Bob Bowler (Charlotte, N.C.) is no novice when it comes to volunteerism. He has been doing volunteer work for an incredible 31 years for Special Olympics North Carolina. Bowler has assisted more than 2,500 young Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities through tennis and basketball programs and Camp SOAR, a free summer camp he started 15 years go. He has raised more than $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions for Special Olympics athletes, covering all camp expenses. For more on Bob Bowler, click here.
Stephanie Decker (Sellersburg, Ind.) was faced with serious adversity in March 2012 when a tornado struck her home and threatened to take away all that she knew and loved. Having lost both of her legs after shielding her children from debris, she started the Stephanie Decker Foundation to help children with prosthetics get involved in sports and, in the process, provide access to the best prosthetic technology available. Decker has become a motivational speaker and an advocate, having gone to the Kentucky State Senate to fight for a bill that would require insurance companies to cover new and refurbished prosthetics. For more on Stephanie Decker, click here.
Carl Flatley (Dunedin, Fla.) lost his 22-year-old daughter Erin in 2002 after contracting sepsis – an often-deadly systemic infection – following a routine outpatient surgical procedure. Determined to prevent others from the same fate, Flatley founded Sepsis Alliance in 2007 to increase awareness and encourage medical facilities to establish sepsis protocols. Awareness is crucial as sepsis is preventable and treatable, and the cause of 18-20 million deaths globally each year. Flatley has established educational programs and an endowment to provide sepsis training for young physicians in Florida. According to Sepsis Alliance, the organization has increased awareness in the U.S. from 19 percent in 2003 to 44 percent today. For more on Carl Flatley, click here.
Jeff Hanson (Overland Park, Kansas) was only 6 years old when he was diagnosed with optic glioma, a tumor that attacks the optic nerve that is caused by the rare genetic disorder neurofibromatosis (NF). After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Hanson was legally blind at the age of 12. During his 2005 chemotherapy treatments, he began painting bright, bold colors on note cards, perfectly suited for someone with limited vision. Hanson turned his paintings into a fundraising platform and has since generated more than $250,000 for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and more than $1.3 million for charities worldwide. For more on Jeff Hanson, click here.