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From Experience to Empathy: Why NASCAR fans back Drive to End Hunger

This is a guest post by Stefani Norris. Norris lives in Chicago and works in the sports media industry.

Through his support of Drive to End Hunger, Jeff Gordon has helped raise awareness of the plight of nearly 9 million older Americans at risk of hunger - and with that increased awareness comes more donations of food and funds to help solve the hunger problem.

Pam Willoughby (right), son Nathan (middle) and grandson Ryan (left), all of Covington, Ohio

Taking a "see for yourself" stance to help communicate the reality of hunger among older Americans, the Drive to End Hunger at-track display provides an opportunity for NASCAR fans to learn about these important facts and make a difference by donating to the cause. Through hunger-related games and trivia, fans gain a better understanding of how their donations can impact the social problem Drive to End Hunger was set up to solve.

At the May 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Charlotte, some of these generous fans shared their personal motivations for donating to Drive to End Hunger. For Angela Dolan, the cause touched close to home. "As a child, I was raised by my grandparents. I witnessed firsthand how often they struggled to put food on the table and pay their bills."

Brent Wilfords has also been affected firsthand. "Especially when you have been on the other side, you know what hunger is like. I only wish I could have been as lucky to have someone help me when I was struggling."

While many fans either lived in or knew about a food-insecure household, fans not touched personally by the cause nonetheless share the desire to help. "When the needs of older adults were so evident, it was easy for me to become sympathetic with the cause and realize that I have the power to make a difference," said Cindy Lewan. "Even though I have never seen someone struggle firsthand, I knew my donation could help."

For Pam Willoughby, the decision to donate was second nature. "I come from a small town where people take care of one another, so it feels good to be able to help those that are hungry and are faced with choosing between food and medicine," said Pam, who has been donating ever since Drive to End Hunger became affiliated with Jeff Gordon. "I've always thought Jeff was a stand-up guy, but his being involved with Drive to End Hunger makes me like him even more. I appreciate how much he's done to promote this."

Many fans expressed their belief that a donation of any amount can bring positive change. "We are just a small company that likes to help out wherever we can. It is the little things that can add up and make a big difference in somebody's life" said Frank Locoshus, III.

FrankLocoshus- Charlotte
Frank A Locoshus III of Hudson, New Hampshire

When the contributions are added up, it's not so little at all. At the six 2012 NASCAR Sprint Series races where Drive to End Hunger has raised funds, fans have donated almost $25,000. At a cost of $8 per day to feed one older person breakfast, lunch and dinner, that's 3,125 days worth--or 9,375 meals so far-- and it's only July.

Click HERE to get involved with Drive to End Hunger.

Photos by Stefani Norris

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