Participants from Birmingham, Ala.’s The Exceptional Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving over 700 individuals with special needs annually, got a bit of a surprise on Wednesday, May 6, with the help from NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson and Talladega Superspeedway.
Gragson, the 21-year-old driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports (team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.), made a special guest appearance on two of the participants’ video calls, a daily theme they have taken part in for the last month. Gragson called out the numbers for a virtual game of Bingo to a group of approximately 25 individuals during their morning chat, and made another appearance in the afternoon for the at-home Scavenger Hunt activity. He and the fun group of approximately 30 shared a ton of laughs with Gragson while he answered questions and showcased his Hunt items from his home, which included many of his drivers uniforms and helmets, No. 9 diecast cars, flip-up sunglasses, a 9 of Spades playing card and a candle.
“Our participants are always excited to meet new people,” said Tricia Kirk, President of The Exceptional Foundation, “and they were thrilled to zoom around for a scavenger hunt and bingo with Noah!”
Since 1993, The Exceptional Foundation has provided year round services for individuals ranging from the age of 5 to 81 by targeting social and recreational objectives not met by educational institutions or the community at large. For the foundation’s participants, gathering and interacting with one another was a part of their daily routine. Nowadays, their new normal consists of socializing from a distance, at their own home and through a computer. The virtual activities the groups held with Gragson are a part of their daily video calls (sometimes more than once a day) that include fun and creative virtual interactions such as playing games, learning new drawings, creating science experiments, cooking, and more.
Gragson, who scored his first Xfinity Series victory earlier this year in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, was originally scheduled to make an in-person visit to The Exceptional Foundation’s facility early last month to promote the MoneyLion 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway (scheduled for April 25), but all were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, although Gragson couldn’t physically make an appearance at the foundation to mix and mingle with the participants, he was happy to get the chance to be a part of their virtual programs.
“I had so much fun today,” Gragson, who also showcased to the group his winner’s trophy from his Daytona triumph, told the group after the Hunt. “I appreciate you letting me be a part of both Bingo and the Scavenger Hunt. I can’t wait to see you all again soon.”
Participants had a host of unique questions for Gragson, including “how do you adjust yourself to go the speed limit on the highways after a race” and “what is your favorite football team?” The majority of the group liked his answer to the latter question when he said “I like the Alabama Crimson Tide.” Winners of the virtual Bingo games are set to receive some cool merchandise featuring both Gragson and Talladega Superspeedway.