Over 50,000 children in the Charlotte region will benefit from the more than $700,000 distributed by Speedway Children's Charities Thursday night during the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, was joined by Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Tom Sadler, executive director of Speedway Children's Charities, in awarding the grants to 66 local organizations.

"There is nothing that warms the heart more than helping children," Wheeler said. "The staff of Speedway Children's Charities works diligently throughout the year to make a difference in the lives of others, and being able to present these grants during the holiday season is very special."

Speedway Children's Charities raised the record amount through individual and corporate donations along with various fundraising activities throughout the year.

Many area agencies are direct benefactors of Speedway Children's Charities, including A Child's Place of Charlotte (works to erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education), Levine Children's Hospital (dedicated to caring for children from birth through young adulthood) and Saving Grace Farms (provides therapeutic equine activities to special needs and disabled children).

"We could never accomplish what we do without the help and support of our volunteers, sponsors and donors," said Scott Smith, president of the Charlotte chapter of Speedway Children's Charities. "On behalf of the children we assist, I would like to thank each and every one of them."

In addition to the grant distribution, the gala holiday ceremony included the lighting of Lowe's Motor Speedway's unique 50-foot Christmas tree and a visit by Santa Claus.

Founded by Bruton Smith in 1982, Speedway Children's Charities has expanded to include chapters at each of the seven Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks across the country and has dispersed more than $20 million.

2007 Charlotte Chapter Grant Recipients

A Child's Place of Charlotte, Inc.
A Place for Hope, Inc.
Abilities Unlimited of the Carolinas, Inc.
Alexander Youth Network
Allegro Foundation
Assistance League of Charlotte
Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte
Cabarrus County Boys and Girls Club
Cabarrus County Partnership for Children
Camp CARE, Inc.
Central N.C. Council, Boy Scouts of America
Chapel of Christ the King Weekday School
Charity League, Inc.
Charlotte Boxing Academy
Charlotte Emergency Housing
Charlotte Reads
Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center
Communities In Schools
Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Inc.
Crisis Pregnancy Center of Gaston County
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
DonorsChoose, Inc.
Elon Homes for Children, Inc.
Family Center, Inc.
Florence Crittenton Services Inc.
Girl Scouts of the Pioneer Council, Inc.
Girls on the Run International
Holy Angels, Inc.
Hospice & Community Care, Inc.
Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region
Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County
Hospice of Cabarrus County
Hendrick Foundation for Children
Jimmie Johnson Foundation
Keystone Substance Abuse Services
KinderMourn, Inc.
Lancaster Children's Home, Inc.
Latin Coalition Reading Programs
Levine Children's Hospital
LifeSpan, Inc.
Mecklenburg County Council, Boy Scouts of America
Misty Meadows Mitey Riders, Inc.
Muscular Dystrophy Association, Inc.
National Kids on Guard
Philips Academy of North Carolina, Inc.
Prevent Blindness North Carolina
Pure Fashion
Room At The Inn
Rotary Foundation of Gaston County
Rowan County Youth Services Bureau
Rowan Regional Medical Center Foundation
Saving Grace Farm dba JOY Ride Center
Seigle Avenue Partners, Inc.
Seigle Avenue Preschool Cooperative, Inc.
Teen Health Center for York County
University Fellowship
The Arc of Rowan County, Inc.
The Junior Charity League of Concord
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte
Thompson Child & Family Focus
United Family Services, Inc.
Walter T. Morgan Services Found./First Tee
With Friends
YMCA of Greater Charlotte