Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a four-part series on the four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation‘s 10th annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.
Larry Jordan‘s inspiration for joining Angel Flight Soars is a personal one. While grieving the devastating loss of his daughter in 1997 after her battle with a severe heart disorder, he felt he was being called to do more with his life. While still in the hospital with his daughter, he saw an advertisement for Angel Flight Soars, and within the year, he had completed his flight school ratings and took to the skies, piloting patients in need of life-saving treatments.
This organization of volunteer pilots does more than transport children and their families for routine treatments, medical needs and compassionate care — they provide them a short escape from whatever is ailing them.
“Taking reality away is truly what flying is all about,” Jordan said. “To give them the opportunity to reach over and grab the controls to fly the airplane, is just amazing. … They may never get that opportunity again.”
Formed in 1983, Angel Flight Soars has grown over the years through media exposure, industry alliances and advocacy. The organization‘s important work eliminates the cost of travel as a barrier for anyone needing medical care.
Jordan joined the organization in 1999, and in that year, Angel Flight Soars coordinated 272 mission flights. While he is just one of 1,200 volunteers, his constant drive, passion and competitive spirit have helped grow Angel Flight Soars‘s impact significantly. Whether he‘s running in the local series with Angel Flight Soars on his race car, wearing the brand in his daily routine or speaking to many local organizations through a speaker‘s bureau he formed, Jordan is always spreading the good word.
“Any time I‘ve got an Angel Flight shirt on, it gives me a platform to talk with somebody,” he said. “I want to be remembered if they have a storm in their life that we‘ll be there every step of the way.”
Jordan, from Dacula, Georgia, is one of four most-deserving finalists for The NASCAR Foundation‘s 10th annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The award, named in honor of the foundation‘s late founder and chairwoman, honors NASCAR fans who are accomplished volunteers working for children‘s causes in their communities throughout the United States.
A NASCAR fan at heart, Jordan spent several years driving in every local short-track race he could enter, proudly displaying the Angel Flight Soars logo on his car or truck. Chase Elliott‘s uncle, Dan Elliott, became a great friend and helped Jordan make mechanical adjustments to his cars. Probably why Chase is Jordan’s favorite driver.
“Any time you can go out and compete is just phenomenal,” Jordan said. “… NASCAR is just the No. 1 sport. If someone doesn‘t like NASCAR, they just haven‘t been introduced to it yet.”
The winner of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will be determined via an online fan vote that is ongoing through Nov. 4 until noon ET at NASCARfoundation.org/Award. The winner will be announced Nov. 5 via a livestream event where the winner will be notified in person. The NASCAR Foundation will donate $100,000 to the charity represented by the award winner, with $25,000 donations awarded to the other finalists.
If Jordan wins, sick children will also win. The resulting $100,000 donation would cover the costs to coordinate 195 free mission flights for children needing distant, specialized medical treatment.
Such support is invaluable for these children and their families, and Jordan knows this all too well. Jordan‘s daughter, Tiffany Alexis, required multiple open-heart surgeries from birth. For her third surgery, she was life-flighted to Children‘s Healthcare of Atlanta-Egelston from her family home in DeKalb County, Georgia. She didn‘t survive that surgery.
“I‘ve had a few people say you‘re my angel,” Jordan said. “It‘s a blessing to hear that.”