Cabarrus

Child races to help cancer patients' families

It all started when a 7-year-old race car driver donated his allowance to charity in honor of his ailing mother.

What Hunter Stewart's grassroots efforts became is Racing 2 Cure, a foundation whose budget reached $60,000 in its first year to support families of cancer patients nationwide.

Stewart, now an 11-year-old Mooresville resident racing in Charlotte Motor Speedway's "Summer Shootout" series, is credited with laying the base for the charitable foundation four years ago.

Hunter's mother, Alycia Stewart, overcame her first bout with breast cancer in 2007 and completed treatment for a second diagnosis earlier this year. Hunter, who has received national media attention for his efforts, said his motivation to continue the charity is the prospect that there may be a cure for cancer one day.

The Stewart family - Hunter, Alycia, father Todd and daughter Brooke, now 7 - lived in Carlsbad, Calif., when Alycia was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time.

As a diversion, the family attended a San Diego Padres baseball game on Mother's Day, and Hunter was moved when the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation recognized breast cancer patients on the field before the game.

At the time of his mother's illness, Hunter was racing trophy karts, a kind of mini-truck that runs on off-road courses. Initially, for one race, Hunter pledged to donate $5 to the Susan G. Komen foundation for every lap he completed.

His donation totaled $50. His act inspired others to do the same, and the gesture snowballed.

His efforts soon landed him on the same Forbes Magazine list of "Top 10 Role Models 18 and Under" as celebrities Nick Jonas, Miley Cyrus and Abigail Breslin.

He also appeared as a guest on the "Ellen Degeneres Show." To that point, Hunter had helped raise $1,000. The show matched that amount and set Hunter up with souvenirs from his favorite NASCAR driver at the time, Tony Stewart (no relation).

Shortly afterward, with Alycia's cancer in remission, the family moved to Mooresville.

"We just wanted a slower pace, a big yard and to live on the water," Alycia Stewart said. Todd's brother, Sean Stewart, already lived in Mooresville and works for the N.C. Motorsports Association.

Todd sold his electronics importing business, and the family created the Racing 2 Cure Foundation. Todd is foundation president, and Alycia is secretary. Racing 2 Cure attained federal nonprofit status last year.

During the transition to a new home, Hunter sat out of racing for a year. Then last year he started racing motorcycles, and this spring a local Bandolero car owner heard Hunter's story and donated a car to him. Now Hunter races in series at Concord Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Alycia was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time in March 2010 and completed chemotherapy five months ago.

"I wanted to start a foundation that helps moms so they won't have to go through breast cancer anymore," said Hunter, a Brawley Middle School sixth-grader. "We would donate (money) to the local Susan G. Komen affiliate, and now we have a whole website.

"You can raise money for your own race team. Drivers have a drive-athon, and people can donate money for every lap. Forty percent goes to the race car driver, and the rest goes to Racing 2 Cure."

The foundation helps families by paying simple bills, providing housekeeping help during treatment and helping the children with transportation to after-school activities.

For more information visit www.racing2cure.org.

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