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Game Plan for Life, Strayer University to offer local scholarship

HUNTERSVILLE — “Let’s open with a word of prayer,” said Pastor Will Cravens, the guest speaker Wednesday during a daytime Bible study at Joe Gibbs Racing.

The midday break is one that gives employees, drivers and their families an opportunity to get some spiritual encouragement.

Gibbs, a former NFL head coach and current NASCAR team owner, started the men’s ministry and nonprofit organization Game Plan for Life, which reaches thousands of high school and middle school students each year to encourage them to think about how destructive decisions can affect their future.

The Rowan/Kannapolis ABC Board, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and Salisbury Police Department have worked together to bring the program to Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

On Wednesday, some of those partners visited Joe Gibbs Racing, met some of the employees and saw how it all comes together on race day. They also observed how faith is the backbone of the Huntersville-based company.

The visitors, which included Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten and Capt. Sam Towne as well as Terry Osborne, general manager of the Rowan/Kannapolis Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, announced a scholarship fund named in honor of Gibbs’ late son, J.D., who died earlier this year after a four-year battle with a degenerative neurological disease.

The scholarship is being offered through a partnership among Game Plan for Life, Strayer University and the Rowan/Kannapolis ABC Board. Rowan and Kannapolis high school students will be eligible for one of 10 scholarships. Each scholarship is worth at least $40,000 and will be earmarked for students who would not otherwise have a chance to win a scholarship.

Strayer University is a large supporter of Joe Gibbs Racing, and the conversation began about the local Game Plan for Life school programs and the opportunity to award scholarships, said Nanette Dillon, who coordinates the school programs.

Representatives of Joe Gibbs Racing asked if more than one scholarship could be extended. Both male and female students will have a chance to win in all Rowan-Salisbury high schools, including Henderson Independent and Rowan County Early College, as well as A.L. Brown High in Kannapolis and Cabarrus County Opportunity School in Concord.

Dillon said the schools have all hosted presentations by Game Plan for Life.

The ABC Board used to work with a different group to bring these types of awareness programs to high schools, but they are now presented through Game Plan for Life.

The ABC Board and Game Plan for Life have reached more than 200,000 students, said Osborne of the ABC Board.

Osborne explained that ABC has to use at least 7% of its revenue for educational programs. It is working on a pilot program to reach middle school students. He said there is room to expand the program to include suicide prevention because after last year’s programs, nine students approached representatives to discuss suicide.

The Wednesday Bible study is held at Joe Gibbs Racing and is often led by one of five chaplains and sometimes features a guest speaker.

Bob Dyar has been a chaplain with the racing company since 1993.

“The biggest thing is, it’s an opportunity to help them with their spiritual life, help them grow in their relationship with God,” Dyar said.

While Dyar and other chaplains lead the large-group Bible study, employees lead smaller groups. He estimated about one-third to half of the employees are involved in some type of spiritual development.

Throughout the week, chaplains mentor racers and employees, offer premarital counseling, meeting with injured racers at the hospital and offering discipleship.

The hope is that racers and employees who are interested get plugged into a local church, “so they can build deeper relationships with God,” Dyar said.

Will Cravens, pastor of Bridge Community Church in Virginia and founder of the nonprofit Endurance Leadership Ministries, is the longtime friend of Game Plan for Life President Dave Alpern.

Cravens spoke about integrity, holding oneself accountable and getting someone else to hold them accountable for sticking to their principles.

He also spoke of being honest.

Alcohol Law Enforcement Special Agent Omar Qureshi and Mike Price, who is with Central Piedmont Community College and chairman of the Rowan/Kannapolis ABC Board, agreed that Wednesday’s tour was amazing and nothing like they expected.

Price was a paramedic for years and worked at some races but had never seen the behind-the-scenes part of it.

Qureshi marveled at the attention to detail — “the detail that goes into what they go through just to make this car run.”

Cale Alligood, who owns Alligood Automotive, a South Fulton Street auto repair shop, brought his son, Bryson, along for the experience. Alligood said he heard former NFL player Renaldo Wynn speak at a program at A.L. Brown High. Wynn is outreach director for Joe Gibbs Racing and executive director of Game Plan for Life.

Alligood was not only impressed with the technology used in racing but moved by the camaraderie of employees.

“That’s awesome. It’s great to see why this is what it is,” he said of Joe Gibbs Racing.

For more information about Joe Gibbs’ Game Plan for Life, visit gameplanforlife.com.

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