YMCA, GHA Autism Supports receive $5,000 from Speedway Children’s Charities

The Charlotte chapter of the Speedway Children’s Charities distributed almost $1 million in grant money to 68 organizations across the area — and two of them are based in Stanly County.

The Stanly County Family YMCA received $5,000 for its backpack program, which currently feeds 52 preschool children and their families during the weekends throughout the school year.

“God bless them,” YMCA CEO George Crooker said, referring to Speedway Children’s Charities. “They go out and raise money to help other agencies like us.”

Crooker said the organization has donated money to the YMCA five or six times since his tenure working at the YMCA, which has been seven years.

Every Friday, the YMCA distributes backpacks full of a variety of foods — including fruits, vegetables, crackers — to preschool children who have been identified as being in need to take home to their families to get them through the weekend.

“We don’t meet the parents personally, but we get a lot of thank-you notes and things like that,” Crooker said.

He said the program has been going on for at least the last decade.

“We’re a whole lot more than a gym and swim,” Crooker said.

He said the YMCA helps the Charlotte Motor Speedway by volunteering to transport people in golf carts from their cars to the speedway during race days.

GHA Autism Supports in Albemarle also received a $5,000 grant. The money will go toward purchasing iPads for six individuals with autism at the group’s adolescent home in Albemarle.

“Most of the individuals at this particular site are nonverbal and we will be working to create plans with our speech pathologists to load different applications and tools onto the iPad to use them as communication tools,” GHA Autism Supports Chief Development Officer Beth Olivieri said.

Olivieri, who has been with GHA for 10 years, said the organization has received a grant from Speedway each year during her tenure, likely longer.

The grant “allows us to try to come up with some real creative ideas” to help assist individuals with autism, she said.

The Charlotte chapter of Speedway Children Charities is one of eight across Speedway Motorsports racing facilities. Over the years, it has awarded more than $58.3 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the nation.