BARIUM SPRINGS Until Tuesday, Keenan never knew she had a future in motorsports.
NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger said she was so good as a guest pit crew member that he wanted to sign her for the next race.
Keenan had clutched a “pit gun” to remove lug nuts from a tire on one of Allmendinger’s race cars that visited Barium Springs Home for Children for its Summer Kick-Off Celebration.
It mattered little that Keenan, who turns 16 on July 10, wore pink slippers, a pink shirt and a black skirt.
“That was better than usual,” Allmendinger said with a smile within earshot of his crew.
When told later of the compliment, Keenan said, “Yes, I’d gladly accept!”
Moments earlier, Keenan joined several other youth served by Barium Springs to say thanks to donors of the home’s new playground – the Cumbie family of Virginia, the national Discount Tire chain’s Driven to Care charitable program, and Hamptonville-based Sedgewick Homes LLC.
The playground includes a soccer field with nets, a basketball court, eight swings and a 30-foot by 60-foot covered picnic shelter to which Sedgewick Homes donated materials and labor.
“Because of people like you, we’re overcoming our pasts and able to look forward to a bright future,” Keenan told the crowd.
Founded in 1891 as an orphanage, Barium Springs now provides housing and services for abused and neglected children, early childhood development for low-income families, counseling services and foster family programs. The home also offers behavior treatment in a school setting for troubled teens.
Also on hand were Allmendinger’s bosses at Harrisburg-based JTG Daugherty Racing – owners Tad and Jodi Geschickter and Brad Daugherty, the five-time NBA all-star who played for the Tar Heels and is an ESPN analyst who lives in Asheville.
Youth at the home stood in line for autographs and enjoyed a barbecue lunch. Some challenged Daugherty on the court, including D.J., 16.
“I thought I was going to beat him,” D.J., who is 6-foot-1, said of the 7-foot Daugherty. “I didn’t. I lost 5-0. If he was a couple more feet down, I could have had him.”
“He’s an NBA star,” D.J. said. “He uplifts me to do more.”
Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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