A member of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ben Kennedy’s crew had a daughter diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
She survived despite a poor initial prognosis and now serves as an inspiration for Kennedy’s team.
It’s part of the reason Kennedy felt compelled to visit with children who have pediatric cancer during a visit last month to the University of Kansas Medical Center.
“It’s amazing to see the support and everything the last couple days …,” Kennedy said. “Fans, family, friends, everyone has jumped in and — not only donated — but shared it as well and got it out to social media.”
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When Kennedy was shipped some SpongeBob SquarePants-themed adult pajamas, the idea for a fundraising challenge was born for Kennedy and his crew chief, Scott Zipadelli.
Kennedy joked that the SpongeBob footy pajamas were Zipadelli’s new fire suit. Zipadelli fired back that he’d gladly wear it during Friday’s Toyota Tundra 250 Trucks series race at Kansas Speedway, if Kennedy could raise $10,000 for pediatric cancer research.
“I’m all in,” Zipadelli said. “Whatever we need to do to raise money for kids, I’m all in — any time, any place. I’ll wear it every week if I need to, if we keep raising money.”
When Kansas Speedway caught wind of the challenge, track president Pat Warren hatched a plan of his own.
Kennedy’s fundrazr.com page had raised nearly $8,600 by Friday afternoon, but Warren donated enough money to push it over the $10,000 goal and then presented Zipadelli with the onesie he had to wear for the race under his real fire suit.
“It’s funny and it makes kids laugh,” Zipadelli said. “Who doesn’t love SpongeBob? I’m 45. I still watch it, and my two-and-a-half-year-old, he’s on my lap and he loves it, too.”