NASCAR drivers are known for being fearless competitors on the racetrack, willing to risk it all for a successful day at the races. NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Josh Williams is no different, and away from the track, he wants children battling life threatening illnesses to instill that sense of fearlessness in their own battles.
Since 2015, when Williams was competing in the ARCA Menards Series, he’s been visiting children’s hospitals across the United States. It began by not wanting to run a blank racecar, so a mutual friend of his family-owned team reached out to Williams about someone they knew whose daughter was fighting leukemia. The team decided to host the young girl and her family at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, and he finished ninth.
After Daytona, Williams went down to visit the young girl at Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. That became his first official hospital visit and he just wanted to put a smile on her face.
“It’s different when you’re there and you get to see it,” Williams said in a 2020 interview with Frontstretch. “A lot of people are supportive, but if you go here and meet these kids, meet their parents and see what they’re going through, it makes you appreciate what you feel is a bad day.”
Williams has now completed more than 150 children’s hospital visits.
The most recent visit for Williams was at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, prior to the race weekend at Nashville Superspeedway. He mingled with patients and families at the Seacrest Studios location, which was established by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, inside the hospital, The foundation has 12 Seacrest Studios locations in the United States, and it is in the process of building two more this year.
At Seacrest Studios, kids can explore radio, television and new media, and they can even participate in programs that are broadcast to patient rooms within the hospital. It also allows children to play games and participate in arts and crafts, among other creative outlets.
Williams has been working with the Ryan Seacrest Foundation since 2016. His first visit to one of its locations was in Nashville; he went on to win the ARCA race the next day at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
“We are so thankful for the ongoing support from Josh Williams and his team,” Meredith Seacrest Leach, executive director and COO of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, said in a statement. “His commitment to our Seacrest Studios across the country and the children’s healthcare world at large is incredibly heartwarming. We look forward to continuing this relationship, as well as partnering with the Comcast/Xfinity brand on opportunities and activations in the future.”
This time around in Nashville, Williams interacted with a multitude of patients and was interviewed on-air by Cayce Long, senior communications specialist at Seacrest Studios at Monroe Carell. He was then asked questions by some of the patients, including what his favorite colors are and what is the strangest thing he’s ever eaten. Believe it or not, it’s Cheese Whiz on an Oreo cookie.
Williams stuck around to sign autographs on hero cards and Xfinity Series hats before the final task: helping the kids engage in a hand painting activity. Those handprints will be on Williams’ car digitally for the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, a program that also began in 2015.
Williams ended his visit by telling the patients, “Keep pushing and never give up. Everything good happens in the end.”
Leaving the visits is emotional for Williams, he said. The first few, he shed some tears. To this day, he doesn’t know what to expect going into the visit, but, “every one of them are human, just like I am.”
“It’s still emotional every time you go, but it makes you feel good because you see how happy they are and how happy their parents get, The parents sometimes are more excited about it than anything because they get a moment for their kid to either leave the room or do an activity and forget why they are there. That’s the biggest thing for me: being able to make them feel good and get something off their mind for a while. It’s enjoyable for me.
“It makes me feel good that we did something for the kids.”
In 2022, Williams was one of the finalists for the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award. The $30,000 donation from Comcast helped the Ryan Seacrest Foundation update its studios.
“What’s great about it is Josh is so authentic and it’s real and important to him,” Matt Lederer, Comcast’s vp, brand partnerships and amplification, said in Nashville. “It’s humbling to see what this small, little program that we started years ago, the direct impact it has. And to reward people like Josh.
“This is real to him. He’s doing it because it’s important and he’s putting smiles on people’s faces.”
Williams’ next visit to a children’s hospital will be next weekend in Atlanta at another Seacrest Studio. Atlanta Motor Speedway is the location where he parked his car on the frontstretch in the spring and was suspended for one race. He turned a negative into a positive, however, and made a special t-shirt with a portion of the proceeds going towards the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. He will present that check to the foundation in Atlanta.
Nominations for the 2023 Comcast Community Champion of the Year are open through Aug. 1. With this year’s finalists, Comcast will pass the $1 million milestone in total contributions made to organizations affiliated with previous champions and finalists
About the author
Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.
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