LISLE, Ill., April 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Through the smoke of burning rubber and Eckrich smoked sausage on the grill came the surprise of a lifetime for Army Sergeant Ralph Harroff and his family Friday morning in Ft. Worth, Texas. Eckrich, through its partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and Operation Homefront, surprised Harroff and his family at a Kroger grocery store when Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, raced through the parking lot, jumped out of the famed No. 43 and surprised the family with an invitation to an all-expenses paid shopping spree inside the grocery store.
Once inside, Almirola directed Harroff and his wife to the meat aisle where he loaded the family's shopping cart with plenty of Eckrich smoked sausage. Eckrich also helped the family shop for essential food, and other items, to help provide for them and their young daughter. As Almirola led the family through check-out, he had one more surprise. Almirola presented the Harroffs with authentic Eckrich racing crew uniforms and invited them to be special guests of Eckrich and Richard Petty Motorsports at this Sunday's NASCAR race at the Texas Motor Speedway, where they will receive VIP treatment including the opportunity to watch the race from atop the Eckrich pit box. In addition, Almirola presented the family with $430 in Kroger gift cards for future shopping needs.
The surprise was part of the Eckrich "Operation Inspiration" campaign which supports and honors military families. Sgt. Harroff was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 where he was in charge of the safety and security of a brigade command. One day on the job, Sgt. Harroff lost his footing as he stepped off of a helicopter, resulting in damaged ligaments and long-term pain.
At the time of his injury, the Harroffs were also expecting their new daughter. Operation Homefront stepped in and gave the family a place to live and the additional help they needed. After hearing the story of this military family, Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., wanted to do something special to honor and assist the family.
"This is really what 'Operation Inspiration' is all about," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "We heard the story of Army Sgt. Ralph Harroff and his family. It's families like these that inspire us to honor and assist them, and give them an experience they will never forget. Aric Almirola and the Richard Petty Motorsports team have been great partners and will provide the family with a very rewarding day on Sunday."
Almirola, who was born on an Air Force base, is a husband and father of two young children and appreciates the sacrifices of the Harroff family more than ever before.
"This is a family that I can really relate with," said Almirola. "Growing up in a military family, and now being a father myself, I can understand the sacrifices the Harroff family has made. It makes me feel good that I can work with Eckrich to help honor and give back to military families. I know we put a smile on their faces today and hopefully we helped them out with some of their needs, including a lot of Eckrich smoked sausage and other groceries – and we will show them a great time at the track this Sunday."
For Sgt. Ralph Harroff, today was truly a day he will not forget.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Harroff after the event. "It's something that I'll never forget. Operation Homefront has done so much for our family already, but to have Eckrich and Aric Almirola give us a shopping spree for my family, and to invite us to be a part of the race team this weekend, it means a lot. There are so many deserving military families, I just feel lucky to be honored like this."
Now in its third year of partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors, Eckrich has already donated more than a half a million dollars to the charity. Eckrich is again donating up to $250,000 this year through the contribution of five cents from each purchase of specially marked products from May 1 through July 4.
Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race Sunday at the Texas Motor Speedway. The event will be televised nationally live by FOX and beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
About Smithfield Foods
Smithfield Foods is a $13 billion global food company and the world's largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook's®, Gwaltney®, John Morrell®, Kretschmar®, Curly's®, Carando®, Margherita®, and Healthy Ones®. Smithfield Foods is committed to providing good food in a responsible way and maintains robust animal care, community involvement, employee safety, environmental, and food safety and quality programs. For more information, visit www.smithfieldfoods.com and www.smithfieldcommitments.com.
About John Morrell Food Group
With over a century and a half of experience, John Morrell Food Group brands have become respected and well known for providing premium-quality meat products to families across the United States. With products ranging from lunchmeat and franks to smoked sausage, bacon and pepperoni, the John Morrell Food Group is an important part of consumers' mealtimes. The John Morrell Food Group offers several national and regional brands including Armour®, Eckrich®, John Morrell®, Curly's®, Patrick Cudahy®, Carando®, Healthy Ones®, Margherita® Kretschmar® and LunchMakers®.
Founded by Peter Eckrich in 1894, Eckrich has a rich heritage starting from a small meat market in Fort Wayne, Ind. Through it all, Eckrich meats have been recognized for their great taste and supreme quality, craftsmanship, care and pride. For more information, visit www.eckrich.com.
About Operation Homefront
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 2,500 volunteers with nationwide presence who provide emergency and other financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. Operation Homefront has provided assistance to thousands of military families since its inception in 2002. Recognized for superior performance by leading independent charity watchdog groups, nationally, 93 percent of total donations to Operation Homefront go directly to programs that provide support to our military families. For more information, go to www.OperationHomefront.net.
About Richard Petty Motorsports
A performance and marketing driven company, Richard Petty Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and successful business entrepreneurs Andrew Murstein and Douglas Bergeron, is one of the most recognized brands in all of motorsports. With a history of over 200 wins and business partnerships with national and global leaders, today the race operation fields two teams in competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Aric Almirola pilots the famous No. 43 Ford Fusion with primary partners Smithfield Foods, U.S. Air Force, STP, GoBowling.com and Fresh From Florida and Marcos Ambrose drives the No. 9 Ford Fusion with primary partners STANLEY, DEWALT, Mac Tools and Twisted Tea. In addition, Dakoda Armstrong will compete in the No. 43 Ford Mustang with primary partners WinField and Fresh From Florida for his first full-time season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The team is headquartered in Concord, N.C.