LISLE, Ill., June 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Joel Correll, a United States Marine Corps veteran, and his 15-year son, Jarrett, who lives with cystic fibrosis, received a Father's Day surprise of a lifetime today at Michigan International Speedway. Joel and Jarrett Correll, along with Jarrett's mother, were on a VIP tour of the track – or at least that's what they thought – when Aric Almirola, "The King" Richard Petty and representatives from Operation Homefront and Victory Junction surprised the family with an experience they will not soon forget.
As part of the "tour," the family was brought to the facility's media center to listen to a press conference involving Almirola and NASCAR Hall of Famer, Petty. In the middle of the press conference, Almirola called the family to the front. The driver of the famed No. 43 announced that Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, would be providing Jarrett with a week at Victory Junction, a camp founded by the Petty family that hosts children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses.
But, the surprises weren't over yet. "The King" then offered Joel and his son Eckrich crew uniforms and asked them to be a part of the race team on Sunday as special guests of the team, Eckrich and Operation Homefront. Petty and Almirola also informed Joel and Jarrett that they would have their names on the No. 43 Eckrich Ford on Sunday to honor them and help celebrate Father's Day.
This Father's Day surprise was a part of "Operation Inspiration," a campaign launched by Eckrich and Operation Homefront earlier this year to help honor, thank and support the military families who inspire their fellow Americans.
"This is a big surprise for us, something we didn't expect," said Jarrett after the surprise. "I love going to camp, it's a place where I can feel like myself. I never expected anyone to honor us like this, but it's pretty cool. This will be a great Father's Day."
"I was just nervous to be called up front," quipped father Joel. "But, it means a lot to military families to be thought of. Not just our family, but of the families that have come before us and the ones serving now. It's not something you expect, but it's something we won't forget."
"Today's surprise was pretty special to be a part of," said Almirola. "To be able to give back to not just our military members, but to their family members as well is an honor. Victory Junction is a fantastic facility and one that my wife (Janice) and I have spent many days giving our time helping out at. I know Jarrett will have a blast and it's great that some of the financial commitments that can be associated with camp will be provided for his family."
Eckrich is providing additional assistance to military families by donating up to $250,000 to Operation Homefront this year through the contribution of five cents from the purchase of specially-marked packages from May 1 through July 4.
"When we first heard about Victory Junction through the Petty family, we knew we wanted to help send a child from a military family there," said Chuck Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "The camp has touched so many lives and inspired us, just like Joel, Jarrett and his mother have. We're honored to give them this Father's Day experience because it's well deserved for all of their sacrifice."
Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. The event will be televised live by TNT and begin at 1 p.m. ET.
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 or www.facebook.com/EckrichMeats
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 $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 Operation Homefront
A national nonprofit, Operation Homefront leads more than 6,500 volunteers, with nationwide presence, and has met more than 741,000 needs of military families since 2002. A four-star rated charity by watchdog Charity Navigator, nationally, 94 percent of total revenue donated to Operation Homefront goes directly to assist service members. More information is available at 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 and STP and Marcos Ambrose drives the No. 9 machine with primary partners Stanley and DEWALT. In addition, Michael Annett wheels the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford Mustang full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. The team is headquartered in Concord, N.C.
About Victory Junction
Victory Junction is a year round camping environment for children ages six to 16 with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. Founded in 2004 by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their son Adam, the camp offers programs for 28 disease groups. Victory Junction's mission is to provide life-changing experiences that are exciting, fun and empowering in a safe and medically sound environment. The camp operates solely though the support of generous individuals, foundations and corporations to provide every experience at no charge to the children and their families. Victory Junction will celebrate its 10th summer session in 2013, while acknowledging 2014 as its 10th Anniversary.