LISLE, Ill., Sept. 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty is no stranger to handing over keys. As the current co-owner of the famed No. 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford, Petty allows his driver Aric Almirola to take the keys of his race car each week. But today, with partner Eckrich, Petty gave away a different set of keys to an unsuspecting military family.
Petty gave United States Marine Corps veteran James Wallace and his family the keys to a mortgage free house located in Bolingbrook, Ill. The new home came as a complete surprise to the Wallace family of three who were just as shocked to see "The King" Richard Petty climb out of the No. 43 Eckrich race car to deliver the tremendous gift on behalf of Eckrich and Operation Homefront and their partner Wells Fargo.
And, Petty wasn't done giving gifts either. The racing legend invited the Wallace family to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway located in the city of Joliet, Ill. Petty gave them authentic Eckrich crew uniforms and race hats in a gift basket also filled with Eckrich products and asked the family to be honorary crew members of the No. 43 Eckrich Ford team.
"I think they were really surprised to see all of us in front of this house," said Petty. "But that was nothing compared to their shock when we handed over the keys and told them that this was their new home. I've been a part of giving away a lot of things in my lifetime, but I don't remember giving away a house. That's a pretty big deal for anyone.
"It just makes it more special because it's a military family who are really worthy of this gift," continued Petty. "They are a family who has sacrificed while their loved one served our country. Eckrich and Operation Homefront have been really great in honoring our military families like this all year and it's a really cool deal that they topped it off by giving away a house."
Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, has been working with Operation Homefront to support and thank military men and women and their families all year. It's all been a part of their Operation Inspiration campaign to honor the heroes behind our heroes and has included several events with Richard Petty Motorsports, a $250,000 donation to Operation Homefront and even a TV special hosted by Al Roker. Today's event was the second time this year that Eckrich, Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo have partnered in mortgage free house giveaways for military families.
"Today's house giveaway really defines what Operation Inspiration is all about for us," said Chuck Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "We appreciate everything that Operation Homefront and Wells Fargo has done to provide a deserving family with their own home, and we are thrilled that Richard Petty has been a part of this event to make it even more special for everyone involved."
The Wallace family was truly taken back by the events. Wallace is a corporal in the Marine Corps and has been deployed twice to Afghanistan. The new home will allow the family to continue to work in the Chicagoland area as well as live near their extended family. This will be a day they will never forget.
"It hasn't sunk in yet. I keep thinking this isn't real," said James Wallace. "Being in the military, you move around, you rent houses, you get deployed. To now have a home of our own, a place where we can settle into and call our own, this means so much to me and my family. We are going to be able to make many, many memories here."
Eckrich and Operation Homefront were able to donate the new home to the Wallace family through the aid of Wells Fargo. It's the not first time that Wells Fargo, Operation Homefront and Eckrich have partnered together for a house giveaway. It is, however, the first time they have done so with Petty.
"It is an honor for Wells Fargo to do what we can to assist members of the military who have served our country so bravely," said J.K. Huey, SVP, Wells Fargo. "We hope the Wallace family will enjoy their new home and that it contributes to improving his quality of life after all he has done in military service." Real estate property donations are part of Wells Fargo's long-standing commitment to giving back and revitalizing communities. Since 2011 more than 3,000 properties have been donated through its REO Home Donation program. The company has committed $35 million over the next three years to support military service members and veterans with $30 million going toward home donations to veterans.
Eckrich and Petty will host their guests at Chicagoland Speedway this Sunday, September 15. The race will be televised live nationally on ESPN.
To learn more about Operation Inspiration, please click here.
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 Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.4 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 9,000 stores, 12,000 ATMs, and the Internet (wellsfargo.com), and has offices in more than 35 countries to support the bank's customers who conduct business in the global economy. With more than 270,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 25 on Fortune's 2013 rankings of America's largest corporations. Wells Fargo's vision is to satisfy all our customers' financial needs and help them succeed financially. Wells Fargo perspectives are also available at blog.wellsfargo.com.