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Harrisburg charity provides ‘an experience of a lifetime’ to teen with autism

Jake Bynum, 15, who has autism, exits the limousine at his send off for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. Dream on 3 had arranged for a private meeting with his favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. on May 22.
Jake Bynum, 15, who has autism, exits the limousine at his send off for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. Dream on 3 had arranged for a private meeting with his favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. on May 22. MARTY PRICE

Jake Bynum’s passion is NASCAR.

Jake, 15, of Mount Holly has autism, and he also has a knowledge of NASCAR that would make fans twice his age envious.

He is more than happy to share facts and statistics on almost every driver in the NASCAR series and some of those in other series as well. While Jake has attended races with his father, Dan Bynum, and grandfather, Joe Phillips, for years, nothing could prepare him for the Dream on 3 experience he enjoyed during the Coca-Cola 600 weekend, from May 22-24.

Dream on 3 is the Harrisburg nonprofit that provides sports dreams to children with chronic illnesses and conditions. Founded by Elizabeth and Brandon Lindsey in 2012, the charity, with the help of sports franchises across the country and businesses in the community, has helped 17 children make their sports dreams come true.

Elizabeth Lindsey said that Jake also has a passion for people. “He lights up any room he walks into; he knows no stranger and loves talking to people,” she said.

Dan Bynum said that Jake has always loved NASCAR and most of the drivers, “but Dale Earnhardt Jr. has always been his favorite.”

Elizabeth Lindsey said the group likes to surprise the Dream Kids, but because Jake loves structure and planning, he helped plan the send-off at Queen Bee Bakery in Mount Holly. Jake works at the bakery every Thursday as part of a pre-employment program and wanted to help owner Kerry Queen with the cake and guest list.

Jake’s experience started on May 22, when he went to JR Motorsports for a meeting with Earnhardt and his sister, Kelly Miller, who spent some quiet, private time with Jake and his family.

Another highlight of the day was when, just by accident, Jake met Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Cole Custer as he toured the shop.

The race day festivities on May 24 began at Jake’s send-off party at Queen Bee Bakery. Arriving in a limousine, Jake bounded over to Samantha Baucom, who works at ARC of North Carolina, to thank her for nominating him for the experience.

“One, two, three, dream,” exclaimed Jake as he and his family and friends circled up for the Dream on 3 cheer as they threw their hands into the air. After a brief party with a cake decorated with the No. 88 car on top, Jake jumped back into the limousine saying, “Kurt Busch is going down,” before heading to the speedway.

Among numerous highlights of the day, one will always stay with him, said Dan Bynum: Just before Earnhardt was to get into his car, “Dale came up, shook Jake’s hand and signed his helmet in a very caring way,” said Bynum.

“Everyone was extremely kind and generous with their time,” said Bynum. “Dream on 3, the drivers and the crew members went over and above what I expected as far as giving their time and support to Jake,” he said.

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” he said.

Jake was allowed to stay in the pit area until the first caution and then watched as Earnhardt went on to a third place finish. “Even though he is doing good, we would like to see him win in Dover,” said Jake as he was already looking forward to the next race, just one day after his Dream Experience.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at martyprice53@gmail.com

Learn more:

For information about Dream on 3, go to the website http://dreamon3.org or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/DreamOn3.DO3?fref=ts

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