Last March, as part of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Bethesda partnered with Motor Racing Outreach to send several people supported to the NASCAR Cup Series-Auto Club 400 race in Fontana, Calif. As ambassadors of Bethesda’s mission to serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, they were treated to the experience of a lifetime as VIP guests. The highlight was taking a ride in the pace car with NASCAR legend and Fox Sports commentator Michael Waltrip.
Recently, Waltrip and three of the ambassadors – Jordan Flemming, Carl Riker and Chris Thompson – caught up with the NASCAR legend over an online call. Everyone was all smiles as they reminisced about that unforgettable Sunday afternoon and talked about the importance of disability awareness.
** Watch the full conversation at IncludeAllAbilities.com/
Waltrip has given many pace car rides over the years, but these stood out to him. “The smiles just seemed bigger,” said the two-time winner of the Daytona 500. “They really enjoyed the opportunity to get out on that big racetrack and see what it’s like. Sharing that with them and taking pictures, it was a day that will live in my memory forever.”
Through the efforts of Motor Racing Outreach President Billy Mauldin, NASCAR and the Auto Club Speedway opened its arms to Bethesda, providing VIP access and the opportunity to promote National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month to the 80,000+ fans in attendance and to journalists covering the event. The Auto Club 400 was one of the final races held before COVID-19 shutdowns began.
Bringing attention to people with disabilities
National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. The proclamation called upon all Americans to provide support and opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities to reach their potential.
Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live with a host of challenges – everything from a shortage of suitable housing options and unemployment to poor health and a lack of connection to their community. Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things even worse, which makes finding solutions now more important than ever.
This urgency is the driving force Bethesda’s campaign, and throughout the month the organization is highlighting the issues and providing solutions and resources at IncludeAllAbilities.com. Additionally, Bethesda is offering its “Better Together” virtual concert series to lift spirits during March. Individual events feature American Idol finalist Jessica Meuse (debuted March 1) and members of Johnny Cash’s family (premiering at 8 p.m. ET March 18). At 7:30 p.m. ET March 25, Bethesda will stream a live, free concert featuring Christian superstar Crowder. Details and RSVP links to all concerts can be found at IncludeAllAbilities.com/Concert.
Headquartered in Watertown, Wis., Bethesda is a national organization providing homes and other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and is celebrating its 117th anniversary in 2021. Bethesda strives to become a central point of connection that unites people who have disabilities with communities and provides essential resources to help them live their lives to the fullest. The organization offers more than 300 programs across the country, provided 4 million hours of support across all programs in a recent fiscal year, and is guided by Christian faith. For more information, go to http://www.bethesdalc.org, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.