Kiwanians share memories, stuff backpacks
By Samantha Lyles
In advance of race weekend at the Track Too Tough To Tame, members of Darlington Kiwanis spent their Sept. 3 meeting sharing memories of the Southern 500 and stuffing back-to-school backpacks for foster children as part of the club’s annual “Racing For Kids” outreach.
Member Ronnie Ward recalled working at the track as a high schooler, carrying teletype copy to and from the press box, which involved close proximity to speeding vehicles and harried reporters, both spewing wild amounts of carbon. Ward said that by the end of the day, he and his fellow runners were coated in grubby black residue.
“But we got all the soft drinks and sandwiches we could eat and we could watch the race,” said Ward. “The only problem we had was one time when Joe Weatherly came up on the rail and almost came into the stands.”
At that time – the early 1960s – there were no “safety barriers” or modern protective structures. Ward said that the only thing separating him and the other boys from Weatherly’s speeding vehicle was a steel railing and wire fence.
Member David Vaughan said that his family often opened up their home to race fans, and one of these guests received a late-night phone call from his wife informing him that their pigs had broken free of their pen and were running amok on the family farm.
Kiwanis board member Lisa Chalian-Rock explained that the backpack donation program started last year when the Department of Social Services (DSS) informed the club that there were over 100 kids from Darlington County in the foster care system. After giving away 14 backpacks loaded with supplies last year, the Kiwanis board increased this year’s donation to 24 backpacks, which will be given to Darlington High School students currently in foster care.
“These are at-risk kids and in-need kids identified by the school and DSS,” said Rock. “Darlington Kiwanis is supposed to be about serving the children and I think this is a good way to give back.”
Members lined up and each filled one pack with a variety of items, including toiletries and hygiene items, hand sanitizer and classroom essentials to help get the school year off to a good start.