Everyone in town knows Daniel Noltemeyer. Wherever he goes, people know him. Now Noltemeyer is hoping that translates into people voting for him. Not because itâ€™s a popularity contest, or because of ego, but because votes mean that Best Buddies Kentucky – an organization that the humble Noltemeyer helped found, could receive a financial grant that could change thousands of lives in the state.
The goal of Best Buddies Kentucky is to pair children in middle school, high school and college with individuals with disabilities. Noltemeyer, a 32 year old with Down Syndrome is a nominated finalist for The NASCAR Foundationâ€™s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, presented annually to a fan who according to a press release from NASCAR, has â€œmade a profound impact on the lives of children in his or her local community.â€
For Noltemeyer, this has been his work for the past five years with Best Buddies Kentucky, a chapter of Best Buddies International that he helped to start with his brother Patrick and now works hand in hand with State Director of Best Buddies Kentucky, Chris Head.
The four nominees for the prize are guaranteed to receive $25,000 for their chosen charity. But if Noltemeyer wins, he will receive $100,000 as well as a 2015 Toyota Camry. And perhaps unsurprisingly he already knows how all of that will be split up.
â€œIf I win, I know I want to give the car to my mom and dad,â€ Noltemeyer smiles. â€œI want to surprise them with that.â€
As for the money, Noltemeyer and Head both know that the amount could prove to be immeasurably beneficial for Best Buddies.
â€œStraight off the bat, I would love a new office for Best Buddies Kentucky,â€ Noltemeyer explains.
â€œIf Daniel wins, it will have a huge impact,â€ Chris Head, explains. â€œWith this grant we would actually be able to hire another staff person, get into 25 more schools and impact 1,500 more kids a year. The grant would give us greater opportunity to share our mission and expand what weâ€™re trying to do.â€
As of now Best Buddies International has eight programs, while Best Buddies Kentucky can only offer six because of staff limitations (as of now, two staff members) and resources.
â€œDanielâ€™s contributions really transcend our organization as a whole,â€ Head explains. â€œHe helped start it with his brother and really set the tone as far as the friendship movement and the mission of social inclusion. In regards to being a board member, Daniel is our biggest ambassador and champion. He loves to go out into the community and share his story with his speeches, which inspire people â€“ both financially and with other resources. You always want to have an example of your mission in action and I think Daniel has really done that with his work.
â€œWhat Daniel shows everyday is that yes, he has a disability, but it does not define who he is. He defines himself, and helps kids come out of their shells.â€
As for Noltemeyer heâ€™s unequivocal about the impact that Best Buddies has had on him.
â€œDoing all of this means we can inspire people to become involved in Best Buddies,â€ he explains. â€œI know I have lots of friends now because of it. Because of my brother Patrick, who got a Best Buddies chapter opened up in Kentucky, I decided it would be a great way to move on with my life and thereâ€™s no better place to be.â€
â€œItâ€™s pretty much impossible to go anywhere without Daniel knowing somebody,â€ Head laughs.
â€œOur mission is really simple,â€ Head adds. â€œDo what you normally would do. Go to the movies, go to the mall but just include somebody you would not normally include. And all of a sudden people realize theyâ€™ve made a huge difference.â€
All Daniel needs now is votes.
For more information and to vote for Daniel Noltemeyer visit www.NASCAR.com/award. The voting is open through 11:59 p.m. Dec. 4. A winner will be announced Dec. 5 at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards show. Â