Amidst hundreds of smiling faces, the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities awarded $625,000 to 79 area children’s agencies during the annual Night of Smiles event at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Just shy of the record of $650,000 given away last year, this year’s total is a remarkable achievement considering the economic challenges in the country and region in the last 20 months.

Claudia Byrd, director of the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, was overjoyed by the outpouring of support for of the organization which has raised in excess of $6 million over the past 13 years – including nearly $1.3 million in the last two years alone.

“You know, considering how challenging the past couple of years have been economically, I think it’s absolutely inspiring that people always find a way to be supportive of organizations like Speedway Children’s Charities,” she said. “Times have been tough for an awful lot of folks, yet they find it in their hearts to help.

“It really is overwhelming. I am so thankful for all of the people out there who open up their hearts to us and who truly want nothing more than to help children who are in need. Every time they participate in one of our events, that’s exactly what they’re doing and I want to thank each and every one of them. Without them, this night, my absolute favorite night of the year, would not be possible.”

Among the organizations receiving grants were Abuse Alternatives (Bristol, Tenn.), the Advocate Center (Norton, Va.), Assistance & Resource Ministries (Elizabethton, Tenn.), The Bread of Life Children’s Ministry (Marion, Va.), Holston Methodist Home for Children (Greeneville, Tenn.) and Taking Acton for Special Kids (North Tazewell, Va.).

There are a number of fundraisers held throughout the year by the Bristol Chapter of SCC, including the upcoming AutoTrader.com Speedway In Lights powered by TVA at BMS, which is now open for its 14th season. While the holiday light show is the chief contributor to the non-profit organization, others include the Sharky 500, a rubber shark race, golf tournaments held prior to the NHRA event in June and during the August NASCAR race week, and the popular “Ride of a Lifetime” Speedway Children’s Charities Auction, which takes place prior to both the March and August NASCAR races.

Hundreds of volunteers from the area take part in the SCC events and Byrd knows it is their selflessness and dedication that has made the Bristol Chapter of the organization so successful.

“We have the absolute best people in the world helping us out,” she said. “You could not ask for more caring and compassionate souls. We are very fortunate to have some really special individuals who want nothing more than to make a difference and who are devoted to bettering the lives of these children.

“As I’ve said before, without them we simply could not do what we do. I am very thankful that they are part of the Speedway Children’s Charities family.”

The AutoTrader.com Speedway In Lights powered by TVA light show runs nightly from 6-10 p.m. through January 8. Tickets are available at the BMS gate. Ticket prices for cars are $10 Sunday through Thursday, and $12 Friday and Saturday. Activity van tickets are $15 each night and bus tickets are $65 each night.

For more information about Speedway In Lights and Speedway Children’s Charities please e-mail Barbara Kaiser-Pigg or call 423.989.6975.