As the holiday season arrives and people around the world take a moment to spend time with their loved ones for what is supposed to be one of the most joyous times of the year, a group of INDYCAR fans have been in overdrive to make sure that signature holiday cheer spreads to those less fortunate.
Thanks to those efforts this winter, 34 less-fortunate children will be opening presents on Christmas morning – representative of a full field of Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge drivers, and then some.
The effort was sponsored by a group of NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans known as the PrueDay group, a community of race fans that are avid listeners and supporters of Racer.com motorsports reporter Marshall Pruett’s podcast.
The effort started as an idea to sponsor a family of three or four children at $100 apiece and buy them Christmas gifts for the holidays, something the group had never done before. But quickly, the money started racking up as INDYCAR fans wanted to help young kids have a happy holiday season.
The group posed the question to themselves: “Instead of a few children, could we sponsor a full Indianapolis 500 field worth of kids for Christmas?”
In the blink of an eye, this small holiday season gesture turned into a global effort to sponsor at least 33 children in need. The group received $3,400 from more than 50 donors located not just across the United States, but in Canada and the United Kingdom.
“It was such a beautiful thing to have all of us come together, who started off just liking INDYCAR, but really using it for something better,” said Cassie Johnson, a member of the PrueDay group who volunteered to lead the initiative. “It just exploded, and we ended up having enough money to sponsor 34 kids for the holidays, which is just absolutely mind-boggling.”
Initially, Johnson planned to handle the gifts herself by buying them with the money donated and shipping them from her home in Southern Indiana. But as her home started piling up with gifts, she reached out to Children’s Bureau, Inc. for help.
Johnson said the group had lists for individual kids that helped narrow down what to purchase – some featured specific items from places like Amazon, while other lists were more generic. Children the PruDay group sponsored ranged from 11 months old to teenaged kids.
Realizing this effort was now bigger than herself and the PrueDay group, Johnson delivered the gifts to the Children’s Bureau, an Indianapolis, Indiana-based nonprofit that serves children and families across Indiana. Some of the lists were for kids staying in the Children’s Bureau’s shelter, while others will were for families within the community.
“We were going to be really excited if we could sponsor a family of three or four kids,” Johnson said. “$300 or $400, we were going to be really excited about that. But then it just exploded, and we ended up having enough money to sponsor 34 kids for the holidays. I love seeing that kind of feel-good community story.”
The group originated during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when daily life was interrupted and people were forced to stay at home. Looking for people to talk to, this group of race fans began talking to each other virtually to pass the time.
Now, the group has a Twitter direct message chat, as well as a Discord channel. They talk about racing most days, but the group has grown close over the last year.
“We just talk all day,” Johnson said, who has rooted for James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi over the last few years. “We share wins in our lives, and we share when things aren’t going great and try to lift each other up. It’s a really nice group of people that started off all about INDYCAR racing, but it really has expanded into this huge group of friends throughout the globe.”
The group even features a prominent member of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock: reigning champion Alex Palou, who asked Pruett if he could be a member of the group and often chats with the INDYCAR fans through the Twitter direct message chat.
Be it a gesture from Johnson, Palou or Pruett himself, this effort is representative of what the PrueDay group is all about: NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans that want to share their love and passion. Eleven months out of the year, it’s open-wheel racing they want to share with others. But come that 12th month, it’s holiday cheer they’re spreading instead of high-octane fun.