NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace inspires packed house at Boys & Girls Club ‘Great Futures’ event

Published 2:40 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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Contributed by Shelly Parham
Last night more than 300 people came out to support the Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County as the organization hosted its annual “Great Futures” dinner at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, sponsored by Citizens Bank. This is the club’s annual fundraiser to support the needs of the Club and children and youth who attend.

Elizabethton’s own Carson Peters provided the entertainment prior to the program which was emceed by Kenny Hawkins, sports director at WJHL, the event’s media sponsor. Nine-year-old Club Kid Nylah Presnell gave an astounding invocation to get things started, and Hawkins presented a witty Question & Answer session with children on stage that added great humor to the evening.

The group also heard an inspiring speech by Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year Gracie Yoder, followed by a video of a mother and her young daughter who are involved with the Club, who offered a very moving story of how much the Club has meant to them.

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The highlight of the event was the keynote speaker, NASCAR champion and Hall of Famer, Rusty Wallace. Wallace hosted a “meet and greet” prior to his keynote, signing autographs and sharing race stories with guests.

Wallace’s speech was inspirational and impactful as he talked about his team in pit row and his crew and how they were pivotal to his success. He told the audience that without the mentors in his life he would not have had the career that he has, and related this to the needs of the children and youth at the Club. He also talked about the harm he believes social media and the internet play on this generation and how proud he felt that the Club was teaching and encouraging kids to do more and to be more.

“I call upon all of you to share your time and to give to those who need us most right now,“ Wallace said.

“I know it sounds cliché’ but the children and youth in our world really do need us more than ever,” said Chief Executive Officer Shelly Parham. “They need our experiences, our knowledge, and our time. These children are faced with challenges that previous generations do not know the likes of. The Club provides them with a safe and inclusive place to be. It allows them to learn and grow.

“Tonight was such an awesome night,” she added. “This community is so full of good people. Thank you for believing in our mission and for sharing it with those you know. Without you, none of what we provide at the Club would be possible.”

The evening closed with a surprise gift from Rusty Wallace as he offered up his Villa in Cabo San Lucas for a live auction. Kenny Hawkins joined him on stage, closing out a very successful evening in support of the Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County.