LISLE, Ill., April 12, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Growing up, Army Staff Sergeant Fabian Hall could always be found in the kitchen with his grandmother. After learning family recipes and many culinary skills, he will now have the opportunity to put his talents on display this weekend. Hall was surprised Thursday evening outside a Kroger grocery store in Ft. Worth, Texas, by the driver of the famed No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, Aric Almirola. Stepping out of his race car at the store, Almirola handed Hall an Eckrich grilling set and asked if he could help grill for the race team and owner, "The King" Richard Petty, during this weekend's race activities.
Almirola and sponsor Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, made the surprise visit as part of their partnership with Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of United States service members and wounded warriors. The event was the first of many this summer that Eckrich will host through its Operation Inspiration campaign that supports and honors military veterans and their families.
For Hall, who has served two tours in Iraq, this weekend is a way for Eckrich and Operation Homefront to honor and thank him and his family for all their sacrifice. Hall's service overseas came to a sudden stop when he was diagnosed with cancer. After returning home, Operation Homefront assisted Hall and his two sons by providing them with a place to live at the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio, Texas. Today, Hall's cancer is in remission and he can now build upon his army career as a cook as a culinary arts student.
Eckrich is now giving Hall, a NASCAR fan, an opportunity to test his grilling skills this weekend as he prepares Eckrich sausage-inspired meals for the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team Friday and Saturday at the Texas Motor Speedway. Prepared with a new grilling set, an authentic Eckrich crew shirt and hat, Hall will help the team prepare a lunch and dinner. Saturday, Hall will also prepare a meal for Richard Petty, who race fans know as "The King." Afterwards, Hall will be treated like a king as he will receive VIP treatment for Saturday night's race.
"I thought the race weekend was starting a little bit early when I saw the No. 43 come racing around the parking lot," said Hall. "I really didn't know what was happening, but then Aric (Almirola) came out of the car and said I could come and cook for the race team this weekend. I just can't believe it. I'm still a bit shocked about everything that is happening, but it's really cool. I can't wait to cook for the race team this weekend."
Almirola, in his second year working with Eckrich and Operation Homefront, knows about the sacrifice of our military servicemen and women and their families. Born on an Air Force base, Almirola has military roots. He is also a new father and understands the importance of family.
"This is really cool to honor our military veterans and their families," said Almirola. "All of our military veterans are heroes, but when you hear a story like Fabian's, who is a single father and who has survived cancer, it makes it even better to give back. We're going to make sure he has a good time with the crew this weekend."
Eckrich will also donate up to $250,000 to Operation Homefront this year through the contribution of five cents from each purchase of specially marked products from May 1 through July 4.
"As we continue our partnerships with Richard Petty Motorsports and Operation Homefront, it remains important for us to honor our military veterans and their families," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "Fabian and his family have sacrificed immensely, but with the help of Operation Homefront they have been able to overcome great obstacles. We now want to honor Fabian by giving him an experience that hopefully he will never forget."
Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will race Saturday night at the Texas Motor Speedway. The event will be televised live by FOX and begin at 7:30 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 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.