On Wednesday, the Charlotte chapter of Speedway Children's Charities (SCC) distributed more than $745,000 among 77 different youth organizations that serve children in need in the Charlotte region and brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of local youth during its annual grant distribution event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"Speedway Children's Charities volunteers and staff work hard year-round to raise money to support children in need in our community, and today is what it's all about," said Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Children's Charities and president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It is an honor for us to be able to support so many wonderful organizations as they champion great causes, and getting to see the smiles on the children's faces as they have a little fun with us during this event always makes it a special time."

In total, $746,265 was raised through several fundraising events in 2015. The total is an increase of more than $330,000 from 2014. Most of the money raised this year came from the annual black-tie gala in May and the SCC Golf Tournament in June. Other funds were raised through online auctions and donations from fan assistance golf cart rides during events at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Since its inception in 1982, the Charlotte chapter has raised more than $10.5 million to support children with everything from educational support to the basic need of a coat or a meal.

"It is our desire and goal to make our programs affordable to any child without discrimination of financial means," said Milinda Kirkpatrick, executive director of Shining Hope Farms, an equine therapy program structured to serve individuals and groups with a variety of disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Down syndrome, developmental disabilities, brain injuries, and the like. "The programs that we offer are expensive to operate; we use a licensed healthcare professional, a certified riding instructor, and an equine for each patient that we see. With this generous gift from Speedway Children's Charities, we can reach our goal of serving poor and needy families with special needs children in our communities. Most of the children that participate in our programs do so free-of-charge."

The Charlotte chapter of SCC is one of eight that are located at each of the Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) tracks. In 2015, the eight chapters raised nearly $3 million nationally to help children in need. Over the years, SCC has awarded more than $44 million nonprofit organizations across the country.

In addition to distributing grants, SCC honored Judy Winkler as Volunteer of the Year for her contributions throughout the year. More than 200 youth were also on hand for the event to meet Santa, enjoy cookies and hot chocolate and tour the Speedway Christmas drive-through light show.

For more information on SCC or to see how to volunteer or make a donation, visit www.speedwaycharities.org.