Born with spina bifida, Samuel Sawyer overcomes adversity each day and inspires all around him, including his father, Mike, who has served in the Navy for over 25 years. Friday, Eckrich and Richard Petty Motorsports honored the family and Samuel with an unexpected gift at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Samuel, 11, was surprised by "The King" Richard Petty and current driver of the No. 43 Eckrich Ford, Aric Almirola, with a custom-made power wheelchair designed like the No. 43 paint scheme that Almirola will race this weekend. The chair was Petty blue and Eckrich green with the famous No. 43 on the back of the chair, giving Samuel the most unique and fastest power wheelchair available. Even "The King" Richard Petty himself and Almirola autographed the power wheelchair for Samuel. Making Samuel's day better, the chair is specifically manufactured to allow his dream come true to play power soccer.
Continuing to enrich and honor the Sawyer family, Eckrich announced they will pay the cost needed for Samuel to attend Victory Junction this summer, a children's camp founded by the Petty family thatprovides life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun and empowering, in a safe and medically-sound environment. In addition, Kroger stepped in to surprise the family again by announcing the family will receive free groceries for one entire year at Kroger courtesy of Eckrich. It was all unexpected to the Sawyer family.
The new wheelchair, groceries and trip to Victory Junction are part of the continued Eckrich "Operation Inspiration" campaign, which supports and honors military families. Almirola enjoys seeing the smiles during the surprises, especially when they come from a Victory Junction camper.
"Victory Junction is such a special place full of special kids like Samuel," said Almirola. "And to have Eckrich help fulfill a dream for him and to give back to our military families is really heartwarming to be a part of. It's very emotional to see the look on Samuel's face when he saw the new wheelchair and can go to Victory Junction and be treated like any other child. It's a great thing that we do with Eckrich and 'Operation Inspiration' to honor the whole family. It's also great that they are receiving groceries for a year at Kroger. That will go a long way. I'm honored to be a part of it."
Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., is in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.Eckrich has already raised more than $750,000 in donations for the charity.
"Today was truly an inspiring day for all us on the Eckrich team," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "To see the excitement of Samuel and his family really defines what our campaign is all about. We are thankful for the partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and Operation Homefront in making this day happen for the Sawyer family."
Samuel could not be any more excited to go to Victory Junction with his new wheelchair and participate in activities with his fellow campers.
"Wow, I can't believe it,"said Samuel after reveiving the wheelchair. "It was really cool to have Mr. Petty and Mr. Almirola give this new wheechair to me. I love going to the camp and playing soccer so this is just really awesome. I just keep sayng, 'Wow' because I still can't believe it."
Richard Petty Motorsports, Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race Sunday afternoon while the Sawyer family will immediately head to North Carolina to visit Victory Junction.