NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty is no stranger to handing over keys. As the current co-owner of the famed No. 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford, Petty allows his driver Aric Almirola to take the keys of his race car each week. But today, with partner Eckrich, Petty gave away a different set of keys to an unsuspecting military family.
Petty gave United States Marine Corps veteran James Wallace and his family the keys to a mortgage free house located in Bolingbrook, Ill. The new home came as a complete surprise to the Wallace family of three who were just as shocked to see "The King" Richard Petty climb out of the No. 43 Eckrich race car to deliver the tremendous gift on behalf of Eckrich and Operation Homefront and their partner Wells Fargo.
And, Petty wasn't done giving gifts either. The racing legend invited the Wallace family to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway located in the city of Joliet, Ill. Petty gave them authentic Eckrich crew uniforms and race hats in a gift basket also filled with Eckrich products and asked the family to be honorary crew members of the No. 43 Eckrich Ford team.
"I think they were really surprised to see all of us in front of this house," said Petty. "But that was nothing compared to their shock when we handed over the keys and told them that this was their new home. I've been a part of giving away a lot of things in my lifetime, but I don't remember giving away a house. That's a pretty big deal for anyone.
"It just makes it more special because it's a military family who are really worthy of this gift," continued Petty. "They are a family who has sacrificed while their loved one served our country. Eckrich and Operation Homefront have been really great in honoring our military families like this all year and it's a really cool deal that they topped it off by giving away a house."
Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, has been working with Operation Homefront to support and thank military men and women and their families all year. It's all been a part of their Operation Inspiration campaign to honor the heroes behind our heroes and has included several events with Richard Petty Motorsports, a $250,000 donation to Operation Homefront and even a TV special hosted by Al Roker. Today's event was the second time this year that Eckrich, Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo have partnered in mortgage free house giveaways for military families.
"Today's house giveaway really defines what Operation Inspiration is all about for us," said Chuck Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "We appreciate everything that Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo has done to provide a deserving family with their own home, and we are thrilled that Richard Petty has been a part of this event to make it even more special for everyone involved."
The Wallace family was truly taken back by the events. Wallace is a corporal in the Marine Corps and has been deployed twice to Afghanistan. The new home will allow the family to continue to work in the Chicagoland area as well as live near their extended family. This will be a day they will never forget.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. I keep thinking this isn't real," said James Wallace. "Being in the military, you move around, you rent houses, you get deployed. To now have a home of our own, a place where we can settle into and call our own, this means so much to me and my family. We are going to be able to make many, many memories here."
Eckrich and Operation Homefront were able to donate the new home to the Wallace family through the aid of Wells Fargo. It's the not first time that Wells Fargo, Operation Homefront and Eckrich have partnered together for a house giveaway. It is, however, the first time they have done so with Petty.
"It is an honor for Wells Fargo to do what we can to assist members of the military who have served our country so bravely," said J.K. Huey, SVP, Wells Fargo. "We hope the Wallace family will enjoy their new home and that it contributes to improving his quality of life after all he has done in military service." Real estate property donations are part of Wells Fargo's long-standing commitment to giving back and revitalizing communities. Since 2011 more than 3,000 properties have been donated through its REO Home Donation program. The company has committed $35 million over the next three years to support military service members and veterans with $30 million going toward home donations to veterans.
Eckrich and Petty will host their guests at Chicagoland Speedway this Sunday, September 15. The race will be televised live nationally on ESPN.
To learn more about Operation Inspiration, please click here.