Night of Smiles gives to charities helping children

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Dozens of local charities in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia divided up the more than $700,000 the Speedway Children's Charities collected over the past year.

A "Night of Smiles" is the perfect way to describe Thursday night at the Bristol Motor Speedway. 37 charities received money from the Speedway Children's Charities. "To walk through the door and see him smiling is probably the greatest gift you could ever imagine," said Misty Ritchie about her son with leukemia.

One charity that received money was the Children Exceeding Expectations School, which is housed at the speedway for children who have cancer. Ritchie tells us she's thankful for the school because her three-year-old son Jacob was diagnosed with leukemia last year. "We don't have to worry about kids with low immune systems going into public schools. They can stay with kids like them," adds Ritchie.

That is just one of the many charities getting help. like the Coalition for Kids, who received $10,000. "It will give 45 kids in my program six months of after-school care, including snacks, tutors, and transportation," says Coalition for Kids executive director Randy Hensley.

They hold several fundraisers all throughout the year to raise money, like the Sharky 500 and Cars in the Coliseum; but their largest fundraiser is Speedway in Lights.

This year they raised even more money than last year giving away $742,000 to the different charities. The money all goes to touch children's lives like little Jacob and Ritchie tells us it means so much. "It's awesome to know there are people out there who love our children as much as we do and its awesome," adds Ritchie.

The Bristol Family YMCA was granted the Jeff Byrd Grant for $50,000 for an indoor playground. The grant was established in honor of the former BMS general manager who passed away in 2010.

Speedway in Lights opens to the public Friday November 15 and stays open until January 4 from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly. For more information click here.

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