Even without a race car or driver in sight, December 10 will be one of the most important days of the year at Martinsville Speedway. It's the date of the 15th Annual Martinsville Speedway Toy Drive, and the list of families needing Christmas help is longer than it has ever been in the prior 14 years.
"This year we have found many who are experiencing hard times who would have never had to ask before because of short time, loss of jobs or illness," said Becky McKinney, president of the board of directors for the Grace Network, a network of almost 100 churches in the area that identifies the families in need and distributes toys to them.
The Martinsville Speedway Toy Drive will be December 10 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Martinsville Speedway infield. A day earlier, December 9, Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell will climb atop the Martinsville Speedway entrance sign at 8 a.m. and remain there until $20,000 in donations for the Martinsville Speedway Children's Foundation are received.
"We know how difficult it is for a lot of people all year long, but especially this time of the year," said Campbell. "We just want to lend a hand, to help put some smiles on kids' faces on Christmas morning. And we need a lot of help to make sure all those kids are smiling."
Anyone donating a new, unwrapped toy or making a $10 donation will get to drive their personal car around the historic half-mile oval. For a $25 donation, Martinsville Speedway Campbell will give five hot laps around the track in one of Martinsville Speedway's pace cars. Participants will receive a certificate of completion from Campbell.
As has become a tradition, the Martinsville Speedway staff will be manning the infield concession stand on Saturday, making and serving the Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot DogTM. Hot dogs and Pepsi products are $1 each, with proceeds going toward purchasing toys.
Santa Claus will be making his annual appearance at the track at 11 a.m. and will listen to the wishes of boys and girls.
The Grace Network is in charge of identifying those in need, purchasing toys with funds raised and then distributing them. McKinney said the Grace Network is working with other agencies to make sure there are no duplication of efforts.
Anyone who would like to donate a toy, but cannot make it to the Toy Drive, can drop them off at the Martinsville Speedway ticket office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.