Joe Vaughn, a longtime volunteer and leader with the South Carolina-based Project HOPE Foundation that serves the autism community, was announced Thursday night as the winner of The NASCAR Foundation’s Ninth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.
Vaughn received the award – along with a $100,000 donation to the Project HOPE Foundation – during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards at Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The award honors the philanthropic ideals and vision of The NASCAR Foundation’s late founder and chairperson and is annually presented to a NASCAR fan who embodies those ideals.
Vaughn, from Woodruff, South Carolina, was part of a group of four finalists who are all longtime NASCAR fans. Vaughn is the chairman of the Project HOPE Foundation and has helped raise more than $2.5 million for the organization, which provides programs and services to more than 200 autistic children each year.
The NASCAR Foundation also will donate $25,000 to the charities represented by three award finalists: Bob Behounek of Berwyn, Illinois, representing Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana; Angela Hamby of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte; and Todd Smith of Perris, California, representing the Fuel for Success youth initiative.
Vaughn was introduced to the autism community by chance, in 2000. Once introduced, his awareness went into overdrive. He immediately covered the cost of two Project HOPE Foundation scholarships himself. In 2001, he was named to the foundation board and 2010 he became the board’s chairman.
“The families served by Project HOPE Foundation are in the race of their lives,” Vaughn said. “A race for critical services for their children with autism. This funding will support our efforts by providing 10,000 hours of therapy teaching life changing skills—like the ability to communicate after years of silence. This is truly an honor and a game changer for these families. I would like to thank The NASCAR Foundation and everyone who voted.”
Aside from his impressive fundraising, Vaughn also is noted for being literally hands-on during foundation construction/renovation projects, improving and expanding facilities in which services are provided. The phrase “sweat equity” has come to define that part of Vaughn’s legacy.
“This year’s finalists are all devoted fans of our sport and that passion is also evident in their philanthropic efforts,” said Mike Helton, chairman of The NASCAR Foundation. “Based on each of the finalists’ remarkable work for children, choosing a winner this year was especially hard for our fans but in Joe Vaughn, we indeed have a most-deserving recipient. When we look back at this year’s award, our memories of being introduced to this group’s achievements will be special.”
To learn more about The NASCAR Foundation’s programs for children, including the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award and Speediatrics Children’s Fund, go to NASCARfoundation.org.