Many have heard of the popular Make-a-Wish Foundation, which fulfills the wishes of children with critical illnesses. But a similar program has gone under the radar — Miles of Smiles, a ministry of Kingdom Racing, an organization that focuses on evangelism to fans of professional motorsports.
“We partner up with a local foster care organization, a boys and girls club, a local church [or] it could be somebody who has been on our website and reached out to us with someone who might benefit from a VIP Day at the racetrack,” said Tim Carrie, outreach director for Kingdom Racing.
Miles of Smiles provides an uplifting experience for local individuals who need an encouraging day, he said.
VIP guests get an insider’s look at racing with access to the paddock, a restricted area where cars are worked on before and between races. Usually only those with connections or the financial resources to purchase a special ticket have access.
Racing professionals from different teams let the ministry know when they are available to host a Miles of Smiles guest. The adventure might include an up-close look at an IndyCar steering wheel, which on average costs about $25,000 and looks like an advanced video game controller.
“[The racing professionals] take the ropes down for them. They take the guests right up to the car,” Carrie explained. “The crew chief says, ‘Here you go. You want to see what [it] looks like?’ [The guests] are in amazement as they don’t just see the car but have hands on the technology.”
Firestone, which helps Kingdom Racing gain exclusive access, often takes participants to the tire area and tells them about the racing tires.
“We really get to just bury the guest in as much IndyCar action as possible, but then the meat of the day is when we are able to sit down with them in private,” Carrie noted. “The guests know in advance that they were selected because they had been through some tough spots in life.”
Beyond the race track
“We get to hear their stories … where they have come from or where they are at in their life. We get to pray with them. We get to love on them.”
Miles of Smiles also finds specific interests of VIP guests before the event, making a gift bag with devotionals and Christian versions of the books, music and movies they love.
After race day, Kingdom Racing stays in touch. Guests are given ministry leaders’ cell phone numbers, and it isn’t unusual to later get a call from a former Miles of Smiles VIP.
“That’s our biggest way that we are able to reach out to people who are needing some joy and some hope,” Carrie said. “[We] share the love of Christ with them whether they are followers of Christ already or don’t have any relationship with Christ. They don’t leave that day without hearing from [someone] about why we are where we are and who has allowed us to get to where we are.”
Miles of Smiles is only one platform of Kingdom Racing, though it is “where we do the most in our outreach,” Carrie said. “Then we have the Kingdom Racing ambassadors [and] fan festivals.”
Kingdom Racing ambassadors do direct evangelism with fans, giving out Christian tracts as well as Kingdom Racing hero cards, like baseball cards, which have the drivers’ names, cars and statistics as well as a QR code which connects online to the plan of salvation.
For fan festivals, Kingdom Racing facilitates concerts at racetracks, featuring well-known Christian artists or local praise and worship teams. Ambassadors also give out hero cards and evangelize at the events.
“The racing’s cool, don’t get me wrong, I love racing,” Carrie noted, “but the focus is no longer racing. That’s just the platform where we get to expose people to racing and see that amazement, that joy, that excitement.
“We’re able to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t about us. This is God, who allowed all of this to come together.’ We try to make an eternal impact.”
For more information about Kingdom Racing, to nominate an individual for Miles of Smiles, or to purchase “God Speed,” a book about the founder, George Del Canto, visit www.kingdomracing.net.