LAS VEGAS (November 30, 2012) -- Lorri Shealy Unumb, Autism Speaks' vice president for state government affairs, was named the winner of the NASCAR Foundation's second annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, resulting in a $100,000 donation to the Autism Academy of South Carolina.
A Lexington, S.C., native and former Miss Southern 500 Pageant winner, Unumb was chosen from a group of four finalists by a national fan vote on NASCAR.COM. She was presented the award at the Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet here by Lesa France Kennedy, daughter of Betty Jane France and vice chair and executive vice president of NASCAR.
"It is hard for me to express what this gift from the NASCAR Foundation means for the Autism Academy of South Carolina," Unumb said. "This financial donation will give us the footing to build on our services and reach more children in need. We are so thankful for the awareness and recognition that The NASCAR Foundation has created for us and are grateful to everyone who voted to make this a reality."
Unumb spearheaded the enactment of South Carolina's autism insurance reform law in 2007, named Ryan's Law in honor of her son who has autism. She has since helped lead the passage of similar laws in 30 other states.
"Autism Speaks is incredibly fortunate to have Lorri help us make autism treatments accessible, probably the most important thing we can do for families today," said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks' executive vice president for programs and services.
The NASCAR Foundation's $100,000 donation will be used to create a scholarship fund for children who otherwise would be unable to attend the Autism Academy, which Unumb and her husband founded.
"Lorri Unumb's story is one of devotion to a child and dedication to a cause, which Unumb helped found.," France said, "She certainly is a most-deserving winner of our second annual award. Lori absolutely personifies what this award is about and embodies The NASCAR Foundation mission. We are all so very proud to have her as our second recipient, as we know she will continue to fight for the rights of families living with autism."