More than 50,000 children in the Charlotte region will benefit from the more than $589,000 distributed by Speedway Children's Charities Thursday night during the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bruton Smith, founder of Speedway Children's Charities and chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., was joined by H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway; Scott Smith, president of the Charlotte Motor Speedway chapter of Speedway Children's Charities; and Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Tom Sadler, executive director of Speedway Children's Charities, in awarding the grants to 66 local organizations.

"Children are a wonderful gift and there is nothing that warms the heart more than helping those in need," said Bruton Smith. "Speedway Children's Charities works diligently all year to make a difference in the lives of others, and this is a very special event."

Speedway Children's Charities raised the money through individual and corporate donations along with various activities throughout the year, including the world premiere of the Disney-Pixar movie "CARS." The local organizations use the money in meeting the emotional, medical or educational needs of children.

Many area agencies are direct benefactors of Speedway Children's Charities, including Camp CARE (summer camp with children with cancer), Children's Home Society (helps place children in adoptive and foster care homes) and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte (provides positive mentors for children ages 5 to 18).

"On behalf of the children we assist, I would like to thank our volunteers, sponsors, donors and Charlotte Motor Speedway employees," said Scott Smith. "We could never accomplish what we do without their help and support."

In addition to the grant distribution, the gala holiday ceremony included the lighting of Charlotte Motor Speedway's unique 50-foot Christmas Tree; Christmas songs performed by rising country music artist Ansel Brown; and a visit by Santa Claus.

Bruton Smith founded Speedway Children's Charities in 1984. The organization has since expanded to each of the six Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks across the country and has dispersed more than $20 million.

2006 Speedway Children's Charities Charlotte Chapter Grant Recipients

A Better World
A Child's Place of Charlotte
Abilities Unlimited of the Carolinas
Academic Learning Center
Ada Jenkins Center
Alexander Youth Network
Allegro Foundation
Angel Tree
Assistance League of Charlotte
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte
Bobcats Charitable Foundation
Boys & Girls Clubs of York County
Cabarrus County Boys & Girls Club
Cabarrus County Partnership for Children
Cabarrus Literary Council
Cannon School
Carolinas Motorcycle Organization United
Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Charlotte
Chapel of Christ the King Weekday School
Charity League
Charlotte Boxing Academy
Charlotte Emergency Housing
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Athletic League
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Children's Attention Home
Children's Home Society
Communities in Schools of Cabarrus Co.
Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Dore Academy
Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Center of Iredell County
Family Center
Florence Crittenton Services of Charlotte
Holy Angels
Hospice & Community Care
Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell Co.
Hospice of Cabarrus County
Keystone Substance Abuse Services
Kids in Distressed Situations
Kids on Guard
Lancaster Children's Home
Misty Meadows Mitey Riders
Northeast Medical Center
Phillips Academy of North Carolina
Pregnancy Resource Center of Charlotte
Prevent Blindness North Carolina
Room At The Inn
Saving Grace dba JOY Ride Center
Seigle Avenue Partners
Seigle Avenue Preschool Cooperative
Special Olympics N.C. - Cabarrus Co.
Special Olympics N.C. - Mecklenburg Co.
Stanly County YMCA
Teach for America - Charlotte
The Arc of Rowan County
The Junior Charity League of Concord
The Salvation Army of Cabarrus County
The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte
Thompson Child & Family Focus
Tia & Trey Dodson Memorial Scholarship Fund
United Family Services
Victory Junction Gang Camp
With Friends