Lake Norman & Mooresville

Foundation event is something to howl about

The Ryan Newman Foundation will hold its Charity Gala Auction and the Sixth Annual Charity Fishing Tournament, Dec.9-10. This is their major fundraiser event of the year. More than $312,000 was raised last year. The gala, held at the Statesville Civic Center this year, is a night of food, fun, entertainment and a live auction; it is already sold out.

The fishing tournament is the largest locally sponsored bass tournament held on Lake Norman, with more than 200 boats expected to enter. That adds up to more than 400 anglers fishing for the grand prize of a fully rigged 2011 Nitro Z9 boat. Other prizes include cash awards, trolling motors, GPS systems, depth finders, rods and reels, digital cameras, gift cards and more, totaling over $60,000.

The tournament, sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, will take place Dec. 10, a Saturday, at Blythe Landing on Lake Norman in Huntersville. The weigh-in will again be facilitated by BASS, with special guest emcees; seven-time "Angler of the Year" and four-time Classic Champion Kevin VanDam (the No.1 bass angler in the world) and Outdoor Channel host Mark Zona.

The Ryan Newman Foundation was started in 2005 by Ryan and his wife, Krissie Newman. The foundation has grown by leaps and bounds. Krissie Newman, Shelly Nunn, the executive director and only paid full-time employee, and many volunteers work hard to keep the foundation growing. Request for donations, supplies and other items pour in every day. The list of sponsors is impressive.

When I asked Krissie, "How and why did you and Ryan start the foundation?" I was surprised to learn of its humble beginning. She answered, "In October 2004, at the Martinsville race, I was leaving the garage area and was approached by a young woman who handed me an envelope and asked me to read the letter. I thought it odd but I opened the letter when I got on our golf cart and read it. She had written that she and her family had rescued 13 dogs and were having trouble keeping and feeding them. Would we help them? I went and found her, and we made plans to visit them after the race. We arranged for shots, spaying, and helped her adopt out 11 or more dogs to good homes.

"We knew it was a worldwide problem and we could help. So our foundation is about animals and people that love animals."

According to Krissie, "Since we started the foundation in 2005, grants were awarded but it wasn't as streamlined as we would have liked. It took us a few years to form a process that worked. This was the first year we had a strict grant-application policy in place and we were pleased with the overwhelming number of applications submitted. It is a cool process to learn where the money is needed."

The foundation recently announced that $326,000 was awarded to 96 spay/neuter clinics, humane societies and other animal organizations in 24 states. Twenty organizations in the Carolinas were recipients.

On April 28 this year, tornadoes ripped through Alabama and other Southern states, killing nearly 300 people and destroying hundreds of homes. The devastation also resulted in thousands of pets, horses and other farm animals being homeless. The Ryan Newman Foundation Tornado Relief coordinated donations and transportation of feed, medical supplies and temporary animal pens to farms and shelters, including a tractor-trailer load of hay from their own farm to help feed livestock.

The foundation announced last year that they have plans for a Rescue Ranch across the road from the Newman farm. The ranch will care for abandoned, injured animals and provide veterinarian services.

Other organizations that benefited from the Ryan Newman Foundation include the Goddess Greetings, which sends cards of support and encouragement to our troops that are deploying, and the Hounds for Hospice, in Iredell County. The foundation donated 600 "Newman's Pup Crew" stuffed dogs to pediatric patients at the Riley Hospital for Children in South Bend, Ind. The foundation teamed up with Martin Truex Jr. to support Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. And the list goes on.