Reid Wilson always wanted to be a race car driver. At 7 years old, Reid got to meet his hero, professional racer Jeff Gordon. When the little boy told Gordon about his dream, the NASCAR legend had nothing but encouragement. “Go for it,” he told Wilson.
Now a NASCAR driver himself and a supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camps, Wilson wants to give that kind of encouragement to MDA families.
“I always try to make sure I do all I can to inspire the kids and families I meet,” the 19-year-old said. “That’s what Jeff Gordon did for me, whether he knows it or not.”
And that’s what living unlimited is all about.
Wilson drives the No. 66 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet SS, which is emblazoned with the MDA Summer Camp logo. He debuted the car at a race in New Smyrna, Fla., in February.
“A couple weeks before that race, we did the unveiling at Young’s Motorsports shop and had a couple of the kids from around here and their families come in,” Wilson said. “That was awesome to finally show off the car. It looks so good.”
Wilson invites kids and families affected by muscle disease to every race. It’s for them he’s working to raise awareness of MDA and to snag enough sponsorship dollars to send kids to camp.
He knows firsthand just how life changing that week can be.
“I was told that this is the best week of a lot of these kids’ years, and I wanted to be a part of that. Not just show up for one day and sign autographs and bring my car. I wanted to be a part of that whole week,” he said.
He got his wish. Last year, the race car driver spent a whole week of camp with the kids as a counselor at Camp Bethelwoods. There he saw how kids with muscular dystrophy, SMA and related muscle-debilitating diseases live unlimited.
“They completely forget that they have what some people would call a disability and you see them go far beyond what other people would set as their limits. It makes you say, ‘Wow,” he said. “What the MDA does for these kids with this summer camp, what they’re able to pull off getting all these different companies to help out — overall, it empowers the kids to really do anything.”
That week of living unlimited alongside his campers was, in his words, “insane” — and totally worth it. He can’t wait to do it again this summer.
“Spending a day or two with them a year — you can’t compare it to spending a full week with them, getting to see how much fun they’re having without being the only ones at school in a wheelchair,” he said.
Wilson’s dad is on the committee for the MDA’s Muscle Team event in Charlotte, North Carolina, and that event introduced the future NASCAR driver to the organization. At just 11 years old, Wilson attended the gala as a local athlete (he was already racing bandalero cars); at the time, he was the same age as most of the kids, and from that point on Wilson was hooked.
He wants to continue giving back, whatever his future holds.
“I loved being a part of something that helped, that did something,” he said of his experience with MDA Summer Camp. “It’s fun to go out and make money or be successful in racing or any sport, but to use a gift that God gave you to find a way to give back is even better.”
To support Wilson’s fundraising efforts, visit www.racing4mdacamp.com