BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Bristol chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities distributed a total of $920,851 to a record 103 agencies on Thursday.

Each year, the Bristol Motor Speedway-based organization hands out checks at the annual Night of Smiles event, when agencies from across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia gather.

Executive Director Claudia Byrd said that, since its inception in 1997, Speedway Children’s Charities-Bristol has raised nearly $16 million, with proceeds going back to the local community.

“There’s no greater blessing than to be here at the Night of Smiles and help give away the money raised to area agencies that are going to help children in need in our community,” Byrd said. “Although demand for assistance will always exceed our ability to assist, we’re so thankful to everyone who has donated and volunteered throughout the years to help us raise nearly $16 million. We would not be able to do this without your love and support.”

This year, Byrd said agencies had requested about $1.5 million, meaning some agencies didn’t receive funds. The goal is to fund all requests.

Back in 2016, Speedway Children’s Charities distributed more than $1 million, primarily due to the success of the Battle of Bristol football game between the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech.

On Thursday night, Byrd also announce that Isaiah 117 House had been awarded the 2019 Jeff Byrd Grant, which includes a $50,000 award. Presented in honor of the late general manager Jeff Byrd, the award will go toward the organization’s efforts to build a home that will provide a safe and stable nurturing environment for children during traumatic times in their lives.

The effort to build the house came after the Department of Children’s Services in Sullivan County, Tennessee, expressed the immediate need for a home of this nature in the area. The funds will go toward capital to build the home.

The Night of Smiles’ 103 recipients included various chapters of Imagination Library, the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and YWCA and food pantries. Byrd noted that, in the past, the record number of recipients was 95.

The Night of Smiles is the culmination of a year of Speedway Children’s Charities fundraising events, including numerous activities during NASCAR and NHRA race weekends and The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights, which opens for its 23rd season tonight at 6 p.m.

Byrd said the organization’s bank account empties on the Night of Smiles and fundraising begins again during the Speedway in Lights, which includes a season pass this year.

Speedway in Lights, which is sponsored by The Pinnacle, features a 4-mile trek across the speedway property and includes more than 2 million lights.

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rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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