Children in the region grinned from ear-to-ear on Thursday, Nov. 13 as the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities distributed $749,000 to a record-setting 88 organizations at its annual Night of Smiles event. 

"Each year I am overwhelmed by the generosity and support of our community," said Executive Director of the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities Claudia Byrd. "This year, we are privileged to disburse the largest amount of funds to the greatest number of regional children's agencies since our inception in 1997.

"I am exceedingly proud of our volunteers, trustees and Speedway staff for their efforts and am proud to be part of a region that demonstrates a truly amazing spirit of benevolence and compassion. Night of Smiles is the culmination of the year's hard work and altruism. It makes such a difference in the lives of children across our region and is, without a doubt, my favorite night of the year."

The organization also awarded the Jeff Byrd Grant, a $50,000 endowment established in honor of the late Bristol Motor Speedway General Manager, to the Boys and Girls Club of the Mountain Empire.

The youth-centered organization plans to put the funds towards the construction of the Jeff Byrd STEM Center - a facility and program focused on the scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical concepts of automobile racing.

Through age-appropriate programs such as "Engine-eering," "Design-A-Car," and "Science of Speed," the Center will expose youth to STEM principles at an early age therefore fueling present academic success and awareness of future career possibilities in related fields.

Plans for facility signage and logos honor Byrd and his connection to Bristol Motor Speedway with the Center's main building housing a public area showcasing his life and portraying the project as a local "winner's circle" for youth advancement.

Other agencies receiving grants include: Abuse Alternatives, Appalachia Serve Project, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of East Tennessee, CASA of Northeast Tennessee, Coalition for Kids, Holston United Methodist Home for Children, Niswonger Children's Hospital, Ridin' High Therapeutic Horse Program, TASK: Taking Action for Special Kids and Washington County Friends of Santa.

Speedway Children's Charities produces a number of fundraisers throughout the year including Ford Speedway In Lights powered by TVA, which opens for its 18th season Friday, Nov. 14. Other events held throughout the year to benefit SCC include a golf tournament during the August NASCAR race week, the SUBWAY® Speedway In Lights 5K Run/Walk, the Ultimate Bristol Experience Online Auction and the Sharky 500. 

For more information about Speedway Children's Charities, click here or call (855) 580-5525.