Life's priorities changed for Amy France, wife of NASCAR CEO Brian France, when she became a mother to the couple's twins, Luke and Meadow. After the couple's children were born, Amy was not only immersed with ensuring their well-being, but became concerned with doing the same for other children.
It was that feeling that motivated the couple to create the Luke and Meadow Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and supports causes aimed at benefiting children.
"Supporting children's causes became very important to me when I became a mother, because it was now personal. The needs of children that haven't been met or addressed--whether the needs are medical, physical or emotional--became so much more paramount to me. I identify with other children's needs now, because those children are someone else's boy or girl," Amy France said.
With that passion fueling their foundation's mission, Amy and Brian have supported a number of causes related to children through the Luke and Meadow Foundation. Their support has led to multimillion dollar donations to a variety of causes, including Autism Speaks, Gabrielle's Angel Foundation for pediatric cancer and Providence Day School.
On October 19, the France's will be honored at Gabrielle's Angel Foundation's "Angel Ball" for their support of the organization and contributions to pediatric cancer research.
After attending the event in 2014, the couple became motivated to serve and support pediatric cancer patients. In that regard, the France's hosted pediatric cancer survivors at Pocono Raceway this summer.
"The smiles on their faces were special, knowing the stories of people still recovering and crippled by this very difficult disease. They do not have many opportunities to enjoy being children. For one day, though, they were able to. We treated them to a very behind-the-scenes VIP opportunity at a NASCAR race. We had a real opportunity to not only give our time and resources, but to use the power of NASCAR to give people experiences to enhance their lives," Brian France said.
What's notable about the France's and the Luke and Meadow Foundation is that both are focused on supporting wide reaching causes, rather than one particular organization or issue. Both Amy and Brian believe that this strategy allows the foundation to have the greatest reach.
"I think that there is a benefit that comes from participating collaboratively with a board and deploying resources, but that's not what this has been about for us. The foundation is named after my kids, because it's close to home and my heart. We wanted to have a different approach to how we contribute our time and resources. We wanted it to be very personally meaningful for us," Amy France explained.
In a time when many foundations focus on one cause or where philanthropists serve on one board, the France's inclusive approach to giving is notable. Yet, the theme of inclusivity is one that runs deeper than the couple's foundation. Rather, it is a focus of France as the leader of NASCAR.
Earlier this year, after the Charleston, SC church shooting, SC governor, Nikki Haley, called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the state's capitol. As the conversation moved forward, sports journalists began calling on NASCAR to ban the presence of the flag from its races. In July, Brian France stated that he "want[ed] to go as far as we can to eliminate the presence of that flag."
France continues to iterate his opinion that the Confederate flag should not be present at NASCAR events. "It's personal to me. Of course we took some criticism and it's a polarizing topic, but where I come out on it personally, is you cannot deny the fact that it's a symbol that is very offensive to an entire race of people. Whether some people believe it's not meant to offend, the fact is, it does. I made a decision that in NASCAR, we are going to join Governor Haley and distance ourselves from something that is divisive," France said.
Distancing NASCAR from the Confederate flag is part of a bigger vision for inclusion in motor sports held by France and NASCAR.
"We want everyone in this country to be a NASCAR fan. To do that, you have to break down some barriers. We've always been offensive minded about this, not only because it's the right thing to do, but the best thing we can do to make NASCAR bigger and better," France said.
In terms of expanding NASCAR's diversity, earlier this month it hosted its 12th annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, a three-day driver development program presented to ethnically diverse and female drivers. Participants have the opportunity to become part of the program's driving class and race for one full season under the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Along with the Drive for Diversity Combine, NASCAR presents an internship program and scholarships to diverse candidates. It also hosts the NASCAR Diversity Awards Luncheon annually ahead of the Daytona 500. These efforts are part of a long-standing focus on bringing diversity to NASCAR held by France.
"I chaired the original diversity council, where we brought our industry together to tackle a southern sport and make sure it was appealing to everyone," he noted.
As time continues, one thing is certain: The France family and NASCAR will continue addressing a variety of causes and issues head-on.
"One of the benefits that we've gotten in getting involved with so many different things, is we get to learn about various causes and challenges in a much more detailed way than we ever would have," Brian France reflected.