BJFHA: Vocation, volunteerism intersect for this award finalist

H.A. Branham

(Note: Today is the first installment of a four-part series on the four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation‘s Ninth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. Today, Bob Behounek of Berwyn, Illinois, is featured.)

For Bob Behounek, starting the Chicago Brushmasters was indeed a stroke of genius. Or rather, a master stroke. Pick your pun, but these Brushmasters aren‘t fooling around: In 12 years of existence, the group of volunteer artisans has raised approximately $940,000 to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC).

That money has helped support the charities‘ admirable mission of caring for families of children with complex medical needs by providing comfort, support and a sense of community. Part of that support comes in the form of five houses, three family rooms and two Ronald McDonald Car Mobile Units.

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Behounek, from Berwyn, Illinois, is one of four most-deserving finalists for The NASCAR Foundation‘s Ninth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The award, named in honor of the foundation‘s late founder and chairwoman, honors NASCAR fans who are accomplished volunteers working for children‘s causes in their communities throughout the United States.

VIDEO: Meet Bob Behounek

The winner of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will be determined via an online fan vote that is ongoing through 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 3 at NASCARfoundation.org/Award. The winner will be announced Dec. 5 during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. The NASCAR Foundation will donate $100,000 to the charity represented by the award winner, with $25,000 donations awarded to the other finalists.

Behounek is an artist himself, having been a race car letterer, sign painter and pin-striper for 50 years. This is where vocation, volunteerism and NASCAR intersect for Behounek, a fan of the sport for more than 55 years. At 8 years old, NASCAR paint schemes had him infatuated. He once painted the name of a NASCAR legend, Fireball Roberts, on his bicycle. After all, his first name is Robert.

His appreciation has become a bit more sophisticated, but childhood wonderment remains part of the foundation.

“Combining two of my passions, cars and art, NASCAR represents a supreme blend of design in motion, speed and an advertising extravaganza, all at once,” Behounek said.

If Behounek wins the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, kids will also win. The resulting $100,000 donation would cover the costs of nearly 1,200 overnight stays for families at one of the RMHC facilities.

Such support is invaluable for children and families in their time of need. Behounek knows this, lives this. He knows a family from some years back whose members stayed three months at one of the RMHC houses. Sadly, they lost their child, but the family sent an emotional note to Behounek expressing everyone’s gratitude for having the stays covered.

“I had a poster made of the e-mail,” Behounek said. “Every year I use it as motivation to remind myself and my fellow Brushmasters that all of our hard work is for these families.”

Other nominee profiles: Joe Vaughn | Todd Smith | Angela Hamby

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