Speedway Children¿s Charities will brighten the holiday season for 71 local organizations by distributing $683,425 during its 15th annual Holiday Tree Lighting and Grant Distribution Ceremony Wednesday evening, Dec. 3, at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway.

The money, which was raised through various fundraising activities and individual and corporate donations throughout the year, aids local organizations in meeting the emotional, medical or educational needs of area children.

Representatives from 71 agencies such as Cabarrus County Partnership for Children, Group Homes for the Autistic, Special Olympics of Mecklenburg County and Victory Junction Gang Camp will be on hand to accept the grants.

In addition to the monetary donations, Speedway Children¿s Charities will present 200 bicycles to area police agencies for holiday distribution.

The public is invited to attend the gala holiday festivities that begin at 5:30 p.m. Santa Claus will arrive in a horse-drawn carriage and children will be able to have their pictures taken with Santa. Caroling is also on tap along with hayrides, face painting, fireworks and a performance by the Extreme Voices of Gaston County, a community youth choir.

Donations of unwrapped toys or canned goods will also be accepted by the Christmas Toy Ministry to benefit area textile workers who have lost their jobs.

Bruton Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., founded Speedway Children¿s Charities in 1984. Since then, the organization has expanded to each of the six Speedway Motorsports race tracks across the country and has dispersed over $10 million.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Tom Sadler, executive director of Speedway Children¿s Charities, will be on hand to assist Smith in distributing the checks.

¿There is nothing that warms the heart more than helping children,¿ said 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.¿

For additional details, contact Speedway Children¿s Charities at (704) 455-4396 or visit www.speedwaycharities.org.

2003 Speedway Children¿s Charities
Grant Recipients

A Child's Place
Alexander Children's Center
Alliance for Children & Youth
Armed Services YMCA
Assistance League of Charlotte
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte
Boy Scouts of America ¿ Central N.C. Council
Boy Scouts of America ¿ Mecklenburg Co. Council
Boy Scouts of America ¿ Piedmont Council
Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County
Boys & Girls Club of York County
Cabarrus County Partnership for Children
Calvary Home for Children
Camp CARE
Cannon Memorial YMCA
Cannon School
Carolina Motorcycle Organizations United
Chapel of Christ the King Weekday School
Charity League Charlotte
Charlotte Boxing Academy
Charlotte Emergency Housing
Charlotte Pregnancy Care Center
Charlotte Speech & Hearing
Children's Attention Home
Children's Home Society of North Carolina
Children's Museum of Iredell County
Children's Protection Council of Catawba County
Children's Theatre of Charlotte
Communities in Schools of Cabarrus County
Communities in Schools of Charlotte/Mecklenburg
Communities in Schools of Lancaster
Community School of the Arts
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
DARE Charlotte/Mecklenburg
Dore Academy
Foundation for the Education of Children with Down Syndrome
Girls Scouts ¿ Hornets' Nest Council
Group Homes for the Autistic
Happy Days & Special Times
Holy Angels
Hospice & Community Care
Hospice at Charlotte
Hospice of Cabarrus County
Johnston YMCA
Joni and Friends
Junior Achievement of the Carolinas
Junior Charity League of Concord
KinderMourn
LifeSpan
Mecklenburg Council on Adolescent Pregnancy
Misty Meadows Mitey Rider
Motor Racing Outreach
North Mecklenburg Child Development Association
NorthEast Medical Center
Ronald McDonald House of Durham
Room at the Inn
Seigle Avenue Partners
Special Olympics ¿ Cabarrus County
Special Olympics ¿ Mecklenburg County
Special Operations Warrior Foundation
The Arc/Rowan
The Eblen Children's Charities
The Family Center
The Girls' Home
Thompson Children's Home
United Cerebral Palsy of North Carolina
United Family Services
Victory Junction Gang Camp
YMCA of Greater Charlotte (Camp Thunderbird)
York Place
Youth Homes Inc.