A year ago, NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones started his own charitable foundation in his home state of Michigan. Today, as Jones returns to the Great Lakes State to race at Michigan International Speedway in the FireKeepers Casino 400, The Erik Jones Foundation proudly donated $20,000 to the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) , the largest independent organization dedicated to melanoma.
Encouraging the early detection and care of cancer is one of the three pillars of the Erik Jones Foundation, along with advocating for literacy and promoting animal welfare. But cancer detection and care has been a priority for Jones since his father, Dave, succumbed to the disease in 2016.
“In February 2016, my dad was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, and four months later he was gone,” Jones, 26, said. “Even with radiotherapy and immunotherapy, the cancer has spread. It was quite aggressive. And what I’ve learned since is how important early detection is, because the sooner you diagnose it, the more treatment options you have.
“That’s how I found out about the Melanoma Research Foundation. They are committed to supporting the medical research needed to develop effective treatments and, ideally, a cure for melanoma. They also advocate for the melanoma community and educate patients, caregivers and the general public about prevention, awareness, diagnosis and treatment. It’s a cause close to my heart, so when we had our first fundraiser, I wanted the MRF to be the beneficiary.
On May 19, at Birch Run (Mich.) Speedway, located 40 miles north of Jones’ hometown of Byron, the Erik Jones Foundation held its first fundraising event, 3 Reasons to Race. Through a unique racing game experience where guests could win cash and prizes, plus a 50/50 raffle and silent auction featuring memorabilia from NASCAR personalities, 20,000 $ was raised for MRF to support essential research and educational resources.
MRF board member and stage four melanoma survivor Cheryl Stratos accepted the check from the Erik Jones Foundation.
“The importance of donations like this from the Erik Jones Foundation for the research and development of life-saving medicines cannot be overemphasized,” said Stratos, who was diagnosed in November 2009. “I am here today because of the work of so many people. I signed up for a phase one clinical trial at UCLA and it saved my life. But the amount of money and work it takes to even have a clinical trial is amazing. That’s why this gift, and this moment when Erik and I can advocate for cancer prevention, early detection and care, is so precious. There’s someone there today. today who is in the same position as I was in 2009 and who will benefit from the efforts made by Erik and his foundation with this donation to the MRF.
Committed to supporting medical research and education, MRF is a dedicated advocate for the melanoma community, helping to raise awareness of this disease and the need for treatment. MRF’s website, www.melanoma.org, is the premier source of information about melanoma. MRF can also be found on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, YouTube and TikTok.
In addition to fundraising for MRF, Jones has raised awareness. During this year’s Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte (NC) Motor Speedway, Jones teamed up with MRF and local dermatologists to promote the use of sunscreen. Before driving his #43 Chevrolet Camaro FOCUSfactor for Petty GMS, which sports an Erik Jones Foundation logo this weekend in Michigan to commemorate its one-year anniversary, Jones joined members of his foundation and handed out 10,000 containers of travel-sized sunscreen to fans while encouraging asking them to schedule annual checkups with their dermatologist.
“You can’t just talk about it, you have to go out there and do it,” Jones said. “That’s why I created the foundation. I wanted to find a way to do more on a larger scale. We’re only a year away and I already feel like we’re making an impact. But the truth is, we’re just getting started.
The foundation’s first donation was a donation last June to the Genesee District Library, a public library system with 19 locations serving residents of Genesee County, Michigan. It was an extension of Jones’ #READwithErik series, which began in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 forced NASCAR to take a 10-week hiatus and schools moved to remote learning. Jones saw an opportunity to share his passion for reading and the first #READwithErik event took place on April 21, 2020 when he sat down in front of a camera and read the iconic “Oh, The Places You’ll Go from Dr. Seuss via his Facebook page. Since its inception, #READwithErik has featured 70 books – 50 dedicated to young people with another 20 titles aimed at adults – all of which have generated over 200,000 views and a reach of over 430,000.
Over the past year, as COVID-19 restrictions have eased, Jones has been able to take his #READwithErik series from the digital realm to in-person gatherings. He read to students in campgrounds at NASCAR venues, with his first in-person reading last August in Michigan, where Jones read Annie Appleford’s “M is for Mitten: A Michigan Alphabet” to children and their families at Graves Family Campground. Subsequent visits have included Estrella Vista STEM Academy for Engineering in Avondale, Arizona, last November, where the Erik Jones Foundation donated 100 books to the school library, and Celeste Henkel Elementary School in Statesville, North Carolina , earlier this year when Jones read another Dr. Seuss classic, “The Cat in the Hat.” Jones returned to a track camping event in May during the Southern 500 race weekend at Darlington (SC) Raceway, reading “Back Roads, Country Toads” by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers to children and their families . Most recently, Jones joined author Neal Thompson at a panel hosted by North Carolina Humanities on June 23 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, which discussed Thompson’s book, “Driving with the Devil : Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels and the Birth of NASCAR”.
People wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution to the Erik Jones Foundation can do so via the following address:
Erik Jones Foundation
370 Maple Road E, 4th floor
Birmingham, Michigan 48009
Erik Jones Foundation Public Relations