More than 50,000 children in the Charlotte region will benefit from the more than $589,000 distributed by Speedway Children's Charities Thursday night during the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Bruton Smith, founder of Speedway Children's Charities and chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., was joined by H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway; Scott Smith, president of the Lowe's Motor Speedway chapter of Speedway Children's Charities; and Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Tom Sadler, executive director of Speedway Children's Charities, in awarding the grants to 66 local organizations. "Children are a wonderful gift and there is nothing that warms the heart more than helping those in need," said Bruton Smith. "Speedway Children's Charities works diligently all year to make a difference in the lives of others, and this is a very special event." Speedway Children's Charities raised the money through individual and corporate donations along with various activities throughout the year, including the world premiere of the Disney-Pixar movie "CARS." The local organizations use the money in meeting the emotional, medical or educational needs of children. Many area agencies are direct benefactors of Speedway Children's Charities, including Camp CARE (summer camp with children with cancer), Children's Home Society (helps place children in adoptive and foster care homes) and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte (provides positive mentors for children ages 5 to 18). "On behalf of the children we assist, I would like to thank our volunteers, sponsors, donors and Lowe's Motor Speedway employees," said Scott Smith. "We could never accomplish what we do without their help and support." In addition to the grant distribution, the gala holiday ceremony included the lighting of Lowe's Motor Speedway's unique 50-foot Christmas Tree; Christmas songs performed by rising country music artist Ansel Brown; and a visit by Santa Claus. Bruton Smith founded Speedway Children's Charities in 1984. The organization has since expanded to each of the six Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks across the country and has dispersed more than $20 million. 2006 Charlotte Chapter Grant Recipients A Better World A Child's Place of Charlotte Abilities Unlimited of the Carolinas Academic Learning Center Ada Jenkins Center Alexander Youth Network Allegro Foundation Angel Tree Assistance League of Charlotte. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte Bobcats Charitable Foundation Boys & Girls Clubs of York County Cabarrus County Boys & Girls Club Cabarrus County Partnership for Children Cabarrus Literary Council Camp CARE Cannon School Carolinas Motorcycle Organization United Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Charlotte Chapel of Christ the King Weekday School Charity League Charlotte Boxing Academy Charlotte Emergency Housing Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Athletic League Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Children's Attention Home Children's Home Society Communities in Schools of Cabarrus Co. Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Dore Academy Exchange Club Child Abuse Prevention Center of Iredell County Family Center Florence Crittenton Services of Charlotte GHA Holy Angels Hospice & Community Care Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell Co. Hospice of Cabarrus County Keystone Substance Abuse Services Kids in Distressed Situations Kids on Guard KinderMourn Lancaster Children's Home Misty Meadows Mitey Riders Northeast Medical Center Phillips Academy of North Carolina Pregnancy Resource Center of Charlotte Prevent Blindness North Carolina Room At The Inn Saving Grace dba JOY Ride Center Seigle Avenue Partners Seigle Avenue Preschool Cooperative Special Olympics N.C. - Cabarrus Co. Special Olympics N.C. - Mecklenburg Co. Stanly County YMCA Teach for America - Charlotte The Arc of Rowan County The Junior Charity League of Concord The Salvation Army of Cabarrus County The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte Thompson Child & Family Focus Tia & Trey Dobson Memorial Scholarship Fund United Family Services Victory Junction Gang Camp With Friends