Panther gives back at Thanksgiving

Initiatives associated with the Indiana National Guard received early holiday financial gifts from Panther Racing CEO and managing partner John Barnes at an informal ceremony Nov. 20 at Guard headquarters in Indianapolis.

The National Guard is the primary sponsor of the No. 4 Chevrolet-powered car driven by JR Hildebrand in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and Panther Racing is involved in multiple Guard programs to assist veterans and youth.

“It’s an incredible honor to be part of your family,” Barnes told the gathering in making presentations to the National Guard Youth Foundation and the 38th Division Association. “We’ll support you any way we can because of the sacrifices you make every day.”

The National Guard Youth Foundation provides scholarships, training and workforce transition assistance to the graduates of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program. The Indiana National Guard Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy is part of the National Youth ChalleNGe program that was established in 1993 by the National Guard and has graduated more than 1000,000 cadets.

The Youth ChalleNGe was developed to change the life path of young men and women between the ages of 16 and 18 who have dropped out of high school or are severely deficient in credits through resident and post-graduate programs.

“The foundation helps us do a lot of things for our cadets, including scholarships and trips as rewards as they go through the program,” said Col. (Ret.) Wayne Hill, director of the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy based in Knightstown, Ind. “We get some federal and state funding to run the program, but there are things we like to do above and beyond. This donation is unbelievable to help us do that.”

Indianapolis is home to the 38th Division, which is raising funds to erect a monument memorializing the legacy of the division and the commitment of every soldier who has worn the "Cyclone Division" shoulder patch.

“We’ve been at this for some time, and it’s getting close to where we’ll be able to break ground, so this gift is a real blessing,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Gary Thomas, treasurer of the 38th Division Association. “I spent most of my (30-year) career with the 38th Division and want to see this monument completed to recognize the contributions of every soldier.”

A day earlier, Panther Racing hosted a “Boss Lift” event in which business owners and executives from Kentucky visited the race shop and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s among the many off-season events associated with the Hiring Our Heroes campaign designed to bring awareness to the high unemployment rate of U.S. Armed Forces veterans and spur business leaders to act.

Click it: Read about Hiring Our Heroes

Panther Racing, in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also facilitates Hiring Our Heroes events in other cities in addition to hosting National Guard soldiers and their families at each domestic IZOD IndyCar Series race weekend.