Deadline to vote is Nov. 29; Winner to be announced at NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony on Nov. 30
Through November 29, 2012 (midnight ET), the NASCAR community can cast their vote for Unumb by logging onto NASCAR.com/Award. The finalist who receives the most votes during this period will be declared the national winner, and will be announced by France live on stage during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at Wynn Las Vegas on November 30. The victor also will win a 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Unumb, a Lexington, SC native and former Miss Southern 500 Pageant winner, was named a finalist for her tireless efforts in raising awareness for autism, most notably for creating “Ryan’s Law,” a bill that mandates health insurance coverage for children diagnosed with autism by a physician.
“Ryan’s Law” is named after her 11-year-old son, Ryan Unumb, who was diagnosed with autism just before his second birthday. Since that time, Unumb and her husband, Dan, were fortunate in that they could afford the necessary care to provide Ryan with the therapy needed to assist him with a condition that affects 1 in 88 children in the United States today.
Unumb understood, however, that many people did not have the financial resources they themselves were blessed with to help their children with autism, and insurance providers did not cover expenses associated with autism; therefore, Unumb put pen to paper to create “Ryan’s Law,” which requires that health insurance companies cover treatment for children diagnosed with autism.
“I was fortunate in that my husband and I could afford and do the things necessary to provide Ryan with the care he needed,” she said. “It wasn’t always easy, and we’ve had to make some tough choices and sacrifices along the way, and it dawned on me that many people who were less fortunate than we are needed help with getting the necessary care for their kids with autism. That’s why I wrote Ryan’s Law, to give those children less fortunate the opportunity to access the treatment prescribed by their doctors.”
Unumb first worked on the law in South Carolina and has since tackled 31 other states with a goal of getting all 50 to pass the law that puts children with autism on an equal playing field with children affected by other health conditions.
It is a goal that she is destined to achieve with sheer grit and determination that made her a successful lawyer and advocate for autism in her now-current position as vice president of state government affairs for Autism Speaks.
Additionally, she co-founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina with her husband Dan in 2009, giving children with autism in her hometown of Lexington and the surrounding Columbia, S.C. area an opportunity to access high-quality therapy and therefore acquire the skills necessary to succeed and prosper in everyday life on their own.
Unumb is well on her way to achieving her goal of getting all 50 states to pass Ryan’s Law. Winning the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award would provide the necessary funding to continue her endeavors and grow the Autism Academy of South Carolina, which has increased its student attendance by 75 percent since it opened its doors in 2011.
“The NASCAR Foundation, through the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, has created a platform for autism awareness and offers the financial opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of South Carolinians who struggle with autism,” Unumb said. “And when it comes to autism insurance reform, my goal is to get all 50 states to pass Ryan’s Law, and I won’t stop until that is accomplished.”
Four finalists have been chosen for the 2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award — an annual honor that recognizes philanthropic endeavors of passionate NASCAR fans who have made a profound impact in their local community. Ron Eby (Windham, Maine), Michael Jackson (Duluth, Minn.), Ali McDonough (Wilmington, Del.) and Unumb are the national finalists who will receive a minimum of $25,000 from The NASCAR Foundation toward their respective charities. One overall winner, as determined by online voting on NASCAR.com/Award, will be awarded $100,000. The BJFHA honors the unwavering commitment that The NASCAR Foundation Chairwoman Betty Jane France has demonstrated with her philanthropic and community efforts.
Tickets to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 on May 11 and Nationwide Series 200 on Friday, May 10 are on sale now. Remember, kids 12 and under are half off for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 and FREE for the Nationwide Series 200 in general admission sections. To purchase tickets visit www.DarlingtonRaceway.com or call 866-459-7223.