One of Alabama’s own – Huntsville’s Rex Reynolds - is among four finalists The NASCAR Foundation has named for its eighth annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, an honor that two people from the Yellowhammer State have won in the previous seven years.
The award, named after the foundation’s late founder and chairwoman, recognizes NASCAR fans who are also successful volunteers for children’s causes in their communities around the United States. While the winner will take $100,000 back to his or her chosen program, all four finalists are each guaranteed $25,000 for their respective charities. Over the course of the award’s short history, The NASCAR Foundation has donated more than $1.2 million to the finalists’ organizations, helping more than 260,000 children in the process.
“This year’s stellar group of finalists consists of loyal longtime NASCAR fans who also are outstanding people,” said The NASCAR Foundation Chairman Mike Helton. “Each of these individuals demonstrates, on a daily basis, true commitment and passion for their causes. Their good works are exactly the sort of volunteerism Betty Jane France wanted to spotlight, when the award was created.”
Reynolds, of Hazel Green, Alabama, is representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama as he vies for the award’s top grant. Reynolds plans to use his donation to fund daily programs and a STEM Lab at a potential new Huntsville Boys & Girls Club. If Reynolds is selected as the winner, he would join Julian Maha from KultureCity last year (Birmingham) and Robert Weaver from the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (Talladega) in 2011 as individuals from the Yellowhammer State who have been honored with the award.
Reynolds has spent many years devoted to public service, particularly to the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama. After participating in the Boys & Girls Club as a youth, he volunteered on the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama board of directors for 13 years and continues to recruit both sponsors for annual club events and other volunteers. He was inducted into the Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame in 2010, and he has also given back to his community as a public safety director, city administrator, police chief and a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.
“If you ever invest in these children (at the clubs), you will be hooked forever, which is the reason I am still there,” Reynolds said. “They have definitely won my heart.”
With regard to his NASCAR alliance, Reynolds has been a devoted fan to the sport ever since he witnessed his first race in 1976 at Daytona International Speedway.
“That summer, a lot of the people in my high school junior class went to Panama City Beach, but me and five other guys went the other direction — to the Firecracker 400,” Reynolds remembered. “From that moment I was hooked.”
International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee Cale Yarborough soared to an eight-second victory in that race on America’s 200th birthday. In the years since, Reynolds has built a memory bank full of NASCAR recollections, including those at Talladega Superspeedway to how he became good friends with an elderly fan who traveled to races alone. Reynolds has considered Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as his favorite drivers through the decades, but he also has a liking for Austin Dillon, who called Reynolds to let him know of his finalist selection.
An online fan vote that opened on Oct. 21 and continues through Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. ET at NASCARfoundation.org/Award will determine which finalist will receive the $100,000 prize. The winner will be announced during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards at the Wynn Las Vegas on Nov. 29.
Even with everything Reynolds has experienced as a NASCAR fan, it would be hard to beat earning The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award as one of his all-time favorite moments. But no matter what happens, he looks forward to utilizing the grant money he does bring home to enhance a program that has meant so much to him.
“I personally have witnessed the impact we have made at the clubs, making life so much better for our young people who desperately need us the most,” Reynolds said.