LISLE, Ill., Aug. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Marine Staff Sergeant Daniel Wright was willing to do something for others and never expected any recognition in return. After being told that he was designing a scheme for a diecast model car to be given to fellow military families aided by Operation Homefront, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Aric Almirola pulled up in a full-size replica No. 43 Eckrich Ford with the exact colors and logos that Wright created. Almirola jumped out of the car and surprised the Purple Heart recipient by letting him know that he and his family were being honored today. He explained that he and his Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) team will race his paint scheme this weekend at the Michigan International Speedway.
The surprise was courtesy of Eckrich, partner of both Operation Homefront and RPM. Almirola also presented Wright and his family with a VIP weekend at the race track including garage passes, authentic Eckrich crew shirts, hats and the opportunity to meet "The King" Richard Petty.
Eckrich, Operation Homefront and Almirola surprised the family at a local Kroger grocery store in Ypsilanti, Mich. Thursday night prior to race weekend. Believing only he would see his scheme on a small diecast model car for the first time, Wright not only saw his design come to life, but was also rewarded with one year of free Eckrich Smoked Sausage. The surprise and gift are all part of the Eckrich "Operation Inspiration" campaign, which supports and honors military families.
Wright and his family, which includes two children, live in the Operation Homefront Village in Gaithersburg, MD. The Operation Homefront Village program affords wounded warriors and their families with rent-free, utility-free, fully furnished apartments while they transition from the military.
Wright has always enjoyed art and design. Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Inc., wanted to recognize him for his service and give him the opportunity to showcase his artistic talent.
Almirola is looking forward to running Wright's scheme this weekend.
"This is a cool looking car that I'm honored to race this weekend," said Almirola. "I think Daniel was a bit shocked when he saw the car pull up and then he was really happy when we told him that we were going to race his design this weekend. That's pretty special for him and it's great to see Eckrich give them one year of free Eckrich Smoked Sausage."
Eckrich is 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 raised more than $750,000 in donations for the charity.
"We are looking forward to seeing Daniel's scheme on the No. 43 Eckrich Ford this weekend," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "We are grateful to him for taking his time to design the car in honor of our military families and now we're going to honor him and his family this weekend. The car looks great and we're excited to see it on the track."
Wright was taken back when he found out that his paint scheme was going to be on the car this weekend.
"No way," exclaimed Wright after seeing Almirola pull up in his design. "I can't believe this. I designed this on a computer and it was really cool to see it on a model car. Now, to see it on the real race car is unbelievable. I can't wait to see this car on the track this weekend. This is great that Eckrich, Aric and Richard Petty Motorsports are supporting families like mine. They are showing they haven't forgotten about us even after we've come home."
Richard Petty Motorsports, Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race Sunday afternoon with live coverage on ESPN beginning at 1:00 p.m.
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 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®.
About Smithfield Foods
Smithfield Foods is a $14 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 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.