DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – official series release — Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images photo —
A remarkable young artist, whose talent sprang from the challenges of a childhood fight against cancer, has been recognized as the 2015 winner of The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide.
Jeff Hanson, 22, from Overland Park, Kan., emerged from an elite group of four finalists after two months of online fan voting on NASCAR.com. The voting ended Thursday night; the fifth annual award was presented on Friday night during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards at Wynn Las Vegas.
The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award was established in honor of the foundation’s chairwoman emeritus and founder Betty Jane France, for her longstanding charitable and community service efforts. Since its inception, the award has benefited more than 52,000 children nationally.
Hanson will receive a $100,000 donation from The NASCAR Foundation for the charity he represents, the New York-based Children’s Tumor Foundation, in addition to a 2016 vehicle from Official Car Sponsor, Ford.
“Jeff Hanson’s story is inspiring and his accomplishments are impressive,” said France, who presented the award Friday night. “This is a resilient and immensely talented young man we have become proud to know – and even more proud to have as our fifth annual award winner.”
“Nationwide would like to congratulate Jeff for winning the 2015 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award,” said Terrance Williams, chief marketing officer for Nationwide. “Jeff’s impact has been an inspiration to us all and we look forward to seeing him continuing his amazing work.”
Hanson was only six years old when he was diagnosed with optic glioma, a tumor that was attacking his optic nerve. The tumor was caused by the rare genetic disorder neurofibromatosis (NF). After undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he was legally blind at the age of 12.
During chemotherapy treatments in 2005, Hanson began painting with bright colors suited for someone with limited vision. In 2006 he turned his paintings into a fundraising platform for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, selling them from his family’s driveway. He raised $15,000 that summer – and then, continued to paint.
His paintings have now raised more than $250,000 for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and more than $1.3 million for charities worldwide.
“What this means to me … is I’m thrilled, I’m honored,” Hanson said. “It means so much to me, that I can help the Children’s Tumor Foundation with a $100,000 donation.
“Being recognized by such a well-known name as NASCAR is a win for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and for neurofibromatosis, helping to raise awareness of a disorder that affects one in every 3,000 people. The money that we receive from The NASCAR Foundation will be used to launch an exciting new research program aimed at improving the lives of people like me who live with NF and help us get a little closer to finding a cure.”
This year’s award finalists also included Charlotte, N.C.’s Bob Bowler of Special Olympics North Carolina; Sellersburg, Ind.’s Stephanie Decker of the Stephanie Decker Foundation; and Dunedin, Fla.’s Carl Flatley of the Sepsis Alliance. All three will receive $25,000 donations from The NASCAR Foundation for their respective causes.
“As always, we consider all of our finalists to be winners in their own right,” France said. “All four have first-rate credentials, resulting in extremely close competition this year.”
CREDIT: NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications