[media-credit name=”Gary Buchanan” align=”alignright” width=”222″][/media-credit]Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR champion driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, not only picked up the Heisman Humanitarian Honor this evening but also the praise of one of his primary sponsors, the AARP Foundation.
“The Heisman Trophy Trust’s recognition of Jeff confirms something we’ve known for awhile, that he is as great a person off the track as he is behind the wheel of a race car,” Jo Ann Jenkins, President of the AARP Foundation, said. “Jeff’s commitment to philanthropy and helping others in need was a critical factor in the decision by AARP and the AARP Foundation that NASCAR could be a good platform for our work to help end the problem of older adult hunger.”
“Since launching Drive to End Hunger, Jeff has been a committed champion to helping people who struggle to put food on the table,” Jenkins continued. “Whether he’s winning races or packaging meals to help hungry older adults, we couldn’t have a better champion than Jeff Gordon.”
“While this award celebrates the contributions that Jeff has made over the years, we are particularly excited about what is still to come,” Jenkins said. “There are nearly nine million older Americas who face the risk of hunger.”
“The fight against older adult hunger is the contest of a lifetime and Jeff, like the AARP Foundation, hates to lose.”
Gordon became the seventh recipient of the prestigious Heisman Humanitarian Award, recognizing people in sports who demonstrate notable commitment to helping others.
“This year, the Heisman Memorial Trust is delighted to add one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history as the seventh name on the list,” Jim Corcoran, Heisman Trophy Trustee said. “The Trust decision to honor Jeff was very easy.”
“Like the Heisman Trophy itself, Jeff Gordon has created a legacy of excellence both on the field of competition and for the greater good of society.”
Corcoran said that Gordon was honored specifically for his work with helping children with serious illnesses, through the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation and through his launch of a comprehensive cancer care center in Rwanda.
“This Humanitarian award is something I’m very proud of,” Jeff Gordon said. “This is truly an honor.”
“But the award is given to all walks of life and sport,” Gordon continued. “To be a part of this list is something that I never expected and something that I’m very honored by.”
Gordon joins other Heisman Humanitarian winners, including two Olympians, three NFL players, and an All-Star center from the NHL. Joey Check, an Olympian and philanthropist, was the inaugural winner in 2006, recognized for donation of his gold medal bonus to the Right to Play Organization to help children in need.
Other winners include George Martin, NY Giants defensive end, who helped those impacted by the 9/11 tragedy; Pat LaFontaine, an NHL great who founded an organization building interactive children’s playrooms; Mia Hamm, world-famous soccer player for her work with the Foundation that bears her name dedicated to helping those with aplastic anemia; William Dunn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers star who founded Homes for the Holidays; and Marty Lyons, another NFL great, who became a surrogate father to a critically ill child.
“This is a big day for me,” Gordon said. “You always want your efforts to be recognized and today this is a very, very proud moment.”
“It doesn’t get any better than being recognized by excellence, which is what the Heisman is all about.”
Gordon acknowledged that NASCAR as a sport has enabled him to be so involved philanthropically. In fact, given his sponsor, the AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger, he is even more involved in charitable works on and off the track.
“I feel so privileged to be a part of this sport,” Gordon said. “I think of NASCAR and what it’s given to me.”
“It’s given me so many opportunities but it’s also given me a great platform and way to give back,” Gordon continued. “I see such a giving community and environment.”
“Everybody really wants to help and that’s what drove me to start my own foundation,” Gordon said. “And it continues to drive me in ways that I never expected.”
“My own sponsor, the first ever cause-driven sponsorship, just continues the work,” Gordon said. “This award just solidifies all the efforts that makes my work what it is and takes us to places we never thought we would go to help so many children and to find those treatments and cures.”
“Life is a journey and racing has been a big part of my journey,” Gordon said. “I’ve been able to experience winning more than I ever thought.”
“I was thinking how hard we have worked to try to win and put so much effort into it,” Gordon continued. “Yet ten or fifteen years, what it is all going to mean?”
“Those trophies are nice but they tarnish,” Gordon said. “But when you save a child’s life and you have something as meaningful as this, those are things that stick with you for a lifetime.”