Autistic Summer Shootout Driver Spreads Cheer to Children Through Toy Donations
For Jeffrey Stanton, racing in the Bandolero Outlaws division in the Kangaroo Express Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway is not only an opportunity to enjoy his favorite hobby, but also a chance to brighten the lives of underprivileged children.
The 13-year-old Salisbury, N.C., resident doesn't let Autism stop him from living his life or enriching the lives of others. Stanton has Asperger's Syndrome, a disorder characterized by an unusually intense focus on routines and consistency and significant difficulties with social interaction.
"We started using racing as a therapy," said Debbie Stanton, Jeffrey's mother. "He used to be the little boy who stood in the stands every week (at the Summer Shootout Series) with his flags and people said he couldn't do it. But now his doctor can't even believe that he's the same kid. Without racing he might not be where he is today."
The interaction of setting up his car in the garage and competing against his peers in the Tuesday night weekly racing series has helped Jeffrey improve his social skills.
A longtime NASCAR fan, Jeffrey began his racing career four years ago in the Bandolero Beginner Bandits division at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In 2010, his first season of Bandolero Outlaws division racing, Jeffrey is nationally ranked 14th in the INEX points standings. However, he is still searching for that elusive first win in the Summer Shootout Series.
Besides being an extracurricular activity, racing helps Jeffrey promote Jeffrey's Toy Closet, a non-profit organization that he founded in 2006. Jeffrey's Toy Closet collects and donates toys to children in need.
Jeffrey got the idea to start the charity after attending the annual Stocks for Tots Christmas toy drive, an event that brings together NASCAR drivers and fans to raise money for, and awareness of, child abuse in North Carolina.
"When he started we didn't know what he was doing," said Debbie.
"His teacher called us and said that he had a lot of money saved in a lunch box. When he came home he said that he wanted to help a little boy in his class who wasn't going to have a Christmas. He had saved almost $500."
In the beginning, Jeffrey's Toy Closet was funded from Jeffrey's personal savings of birthday, Christmas and lunch money. Since then the non-profit organization has donated more than 6,500 toys to sick and needy children.
With the help of others, Jeffrey's Toy Closet recently gave more than 1,500 toys to the Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital.
"We started the toy drive for Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the 1/5 mile track," said Jeffrey. He involved NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and former Legend Car racer David Ragan and Ragan's father Ken in the toy drive as well.
As the driving force behind his self-named charity, Jeffrey brainstorms new ideas for future donations such as school supplies in the fall and food baskets during the holidays. He also does his own marketing by regularly updating his Facebook and Twitter accounts and he has also designed the website for Jeffrey's Toy Closet.
Beyond driving a race car and running his own charity, eighth-grader Jeffrey is a straight-A student. He fixes electronics in his spare time and is looking forward to a radio-building project. Jeffrey also enjoys working on computers and graphic design, having created race car paint schemes for fellow Summer Shootout Series drivers.
Jeffrey hopes to turn his racing hobby into a future career by making it to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Currently, he is preparing to drive a Legend Car as he inches closer to his ultimate dream. However, his greatest joy now lies in knowing that he has touched lives through the generosity of Jeffrey's Toy Closet.
The 17th Annual Kangaroo Express Summer Shootout Series concludes Tuesday night, Aug. 10, with school bus racing featuring local school principals. These 13-ton behemoths will once again beat and bang on the frontstretch quarter-mile oval.
In addition to the school bus race, a full slate of Legend Car and Bandolero action is scheduled.
Adult tickets are just $7 with children ages 6 to 12 admitted for $3 and kids under 6 are free. Spectator gates open at 5:00 p.m. with feature racing beginning at 7:30 p.m. For more information or tickets to the Kangaroo Express Summer Shootout Series, contact the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.