Virginia volunteer is finalist for $100,000 NASCAR Foundation prize

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Posted at 9:27 PM, Nov 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-15 21:27:14-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A longtime Richmond-based nonprofit is up for a big award thanks to the efforts of a longtime volunteer, but they need the public's help to get the top prize.

For 24 years, Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) has provided a space for children who have lost loved ones at a young age to grieve and heal.

"We do free weekend camps and support groups and provide other resources for grieving children, primarily ages seven to 17. And we also have some young adult and some family programs as well," said Founder/CEO Lynne Hughes, who created the nonprofit after experiencing the loss of her mom and dad when she was nine and 12, respectively.

"There weren't any resources and you were doing really well if you went back to acting like it didn't happen to you. And I ended up creating a resource that I wish that I would have had in order to hopefully make other kids' grief journey easier than my own."

Hughes said since its creation, they have expanded to physical sites in 11 states, virtual programs in all 50, and have helped over 23,000 children.

Hughes said ahead of their 25th year, CZC is expanding its headquarters in Richmond to accommodate the addition of ten more camps in the coming years. But, that timeline could be expedited thanks to an honor a longtime volunteer is up for.

Molly Moran lost her mother, Julie, to breast cancer when Moran was 21 in 2009. She began volunteering with CZC shortly after and works as a big buddy at camps, partnered with one of the children attending.

"It's very helpful when through my loss and the kid's loss we have some similarities, so I can kind of understand a few things that they're going through. And it's this whole feeling of never being alone and that there's always people there to help you and to support you," said Moran.

Her work has now made her one of four finalists for the NASCAR Foundation's Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award which honors people "for children for his or her commitment to children".

"It was quite a shock and I can't believe it," said Moran of becoming a finalist. "I'm so, so amazed, so happy that Comfort Zone Camp gets this chance to be recognized."

While each of the finalists will get $25,000, the winner will receive $100,000.

The winner will be selected by a public vote which runs until Friday, November 17.

The finalists are also NASCAR fans and were treated to a trip to the Martinsville Speedway where she got to meet her favorite driver Brad Keselowski.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, obviously, with the other four finalists, an amazing group of women."

Moran said while she hopes to win the contest, it has been an honor to be recognized and to be given a chance to raise awareness for CZC.

"We are really going for the gold here. So, hopefully, we win it and we can help more kids and more awareness for Comfort Zone Camp."

You can vote here.

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