The Ryan Blaney Family Foundation To Be Honored at 2021 Charlotte Memory Gala
There was no burnout to celebrate when the then 24-year-old driver Ryan Blaney scored his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Pocono Raceway in June 2017. Instead, he elected to perform a slow roll down the front stretch, as a hat tip to the crowd full of fans before heading to Victory Lane. “That’s how they used to do it,” shared Ryan with Fox Sports in 2017. “Personally, to me, that is cooler than doing a big, smoky burnout and tearing up your race car and hurting the motor.” This gesture was Ryan’s nod to his grandfather and legendary race car driver Lou Blaney who passed away in 2009 from Alzheimer’s disease.
“My grandpa paved the way for my career,” offered Ryan in a 2019 Alzheimer’s Association blog post. “I am a third-generation racer, with Grandpa Lou and my dad Dave before me. My entire family is dedicated to the sport. We are used to getting our jeans dirty and being a part of the action.” According to Ryan, his fondest memories of his grandpa are the one-on-one moments when they would talk about racing while sitting in his old leather recliner. “It was HIS chair, and it’s still my favorite chair in the house; I am always the one who sits or sleeps on it. It’s comforting to have it there, a little memory of him and our talks.”
In his career Lou achieved over 600 victories and countless championships, he was equally known for his sportsmanship and being a gentleman. “He never kept track of wins or trophies,” stated wife Kate Blaney in Lou’s obituary in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “He just loved the sport, and he shared his knowledge with other drivers.” Lou’s health began to decline in 2001 when he was first diagnosed.
Ryan and his sister, Erin Blaney, both recognize that Alzheimer’s impacted their entire family. When they visited their grandparents in Ohio, it was tough seeing how the disease had forever changed their lives. Living in North Carolina, they did not witness the day-to-day decline, but every time they visited it was evident that his condition had worsened. “It was so tough seeing what grandpa went through,” stated Erin during a FOX 46 Charlotte interview. “It was especially hard seeing the impact, too, on our grandmother who was his primary caregiver.”
The Ryan Blaney Family Foundation, which is dedicated to partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to bring Alzheimer’s awareness to the racetrack, was created in 2018. It is the family’s hope that their involvement with the Association will make a difference for caregivers, like their grandma Kate and Lou’s nurse, who were so dedicated to his care. Additionally, they would like to help break the stigma of Alzheimer’s and talk about the disease with the younger generation. “I knew I wanted to make a difference for my family — and for future generations,” offered Ryan in the previously mentioned Association blog post. “As I got a bit older, I started thinking more about what I could do for grandpa and for the millions of people facing Alzheimer’s disease.”
The Ryan Blaney Family Foundation coupled with Ryan’s Celebrity Champion role within the Association have been successful in leveraging their platforms to not only educate the public about the importance of brain health, but also raised significant funds to support the Alzheimer’s Association mission.
For their first fundraiser, the Ryan Blaney Family Foundation auctioned off a custom 1974 Ford Bronco which sold for $650,000 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association — the highest amount a Bronco has ever sold for at auction. It was at this time other Blaney family members became actively involved with the North Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association as well as the Walk To End Alzheimer’s – Charlotte through Team Blaney.
It goes without saying that the pandemic created a different environment for the Walk To End Alzheimer’s. In the fall of 2020, Team Blaney, however, embraced the ‘Walk is Everywhere’ concept of walking together safely with its twenty plus members and raised nearly $11,000 on top of the Foundation’s sponsorship for the event!
Based on the family’s outstanding support of the Alzheimer’s Association on a national level as well as in our local communities, their Foundation has been selected as the 2021 Award of Excellence Honoree that will be presented during the upcoming Charlotte Memory Gala on Friday May 21. Many influential community and business leaders are expected to participate in this virtual gala event that celebrates the lives of loved ones with dementia as well as raises funds to underwrite the Association’s support, education, advocacy and research initiatives.
“It is our chapter’s greatest honor to present our Award of Excellence each year, and this year’s selection was an obvious one to make,” says Katherine L. Lambert, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, Western Carolina Chapter. “The Blaneys and their foundation have used their voice and visibility to increase Alzheimer’s awareness and advance us further down the track towards our mission.”
In response to the family being bestowed this recognition, Erin Blaney shared, “We are so honored to be recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association at this year’s Gala. We love working with the Association and support all of the work they do. We are looking forward to continued efforts to help create a world without Alzheimer’s!”
About the Charlotte Memory Gala
Guests will join for the evening’s festivities at their own private virtual table for a welcome reception and program — which will include powerful mission moments, silent auction, and live featured packages. Charcuterie and wine packages will be delivered on the day of the event as arranged through the Association by each table host.
Open to gala guests and the general public, alike, the online silent auction opens for bidding on May 12 and closes on May 21 at the end of the event (8 pm). To browse and bid on auction packages and featured items before and during the event, be sure to sign up at: cltmemgala2021.givesmart.com.