(Note: Today is the third installment of a four-part series on the four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Ninth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. Today, Todd Smith of Perris, California is featured.)
One trip to a NASCAR race. That’s all it took for Todd Smith to become hooked – and in the process, start connecting the sport with his commitment to serving at-risk students.
That’s the abridged description of what led to Smith founding Fuel for Success, a program that strives to give students meaningful experiences centered on mentorship, education and recreation, experiences that take place at a NASCAR event weekend.
Creating better relationships between students and police officers is another goal of the program, as is bolstering students’ STEM knowledge. Fuel for Success started in California but has expanded into 20 police departments throughout the nation, positively impacting thousands.
VIDEO: Meet Todd Smith
Smith, a police officer from Perris, California, is one of four 2019 finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Ninth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The award, named in honor of the foundation’s late founder and chairwoman, honors NASCAR fans who are accomplished volunteers working for children’s causes in their communities throughout the United States.
The winner of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will be determined via an online fan vote that is ongoing through Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. (ET) at NASCARfoundation.org/Award. The winner will be announced on Dec. 5 during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. The NASCAR Foundation will donate $100,000 to the charity represented by the award winner, with $25,000 donations awarded to the other finalists.
Smith has been volunteering for Fuel for Success for 11 years; he started the program after attending a race at Auto Club Speedway. He quickly felt a compulsion to start a youth program that could utilize the undeniably thrilling at-track experience.
“When I went to the speedway, I didn’t know what to expect,” Smith said. “And I think that’s a key to the success of our program; the kids we take to the races have no idea what to expect.
“NASCAR has placed a footprint on my life. It has allowed me to reach thousands of kids and adults.”
The $100,000 award winner’s donation would help expand further grow the Fuel for Success, with an estimated 300 students benefiting immediately via creation of new police department partners and new at-track experiences at NASCAR events.
“NASCAR and its people have been and will always be special to me,” Smith said, “because they have made it so easy for me to reach so many kids over the years.”