This isn’t your normal story about a race car driver. It’s about a guy who wanted to do something for children. I think it’s safe to say that he has succeeded in a big way. You may not read about many on track exploits or wins in this story, but you most definitely will be reading about a group of extraordinary drivers, businesses and fans that made this group, big winners in the eyes of a lot of children .
Buddy Ray Jones of Council Bluffs, Iowa has done a lot in his years. Yes, he’s driven race cars and still does. He’s even rode bulls, bad bulls, but perhaps his biggest challenge was when he decided to do something for the children of Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.
Buddy Ray was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1975 and currently lives in Council Bluffs, but in between he has had a few other stops. While in the fourth grade Buddy’s family moved to Eagle, Nebraska and one spring night his dad Oscar took him to his first race at Eagle Raceway. After the races they went into the pits, where Buddy met some of the drivers including Tom Svoboda, driver of the #16 late model and he was hooked. For the next ten years Buddy attended lots of races and added a number of new heroes including John Kinney Sr. and Jr., Dave Chase, Joe Kosiski, Scott Carlson and others.
In 1994, he decided to try his hand at racing and found a 1976 Grand Prix in a field and bought it from the farmer for $25. Two weeks later he was racing in the Friday Night Flyer Class at Eagle Raceway. He raced the Grand Prix for two years at both Eagle and Shelby County Speedway in Harlan, Iowa.
In 1996 Buddy had a brief stint in the U. S. Coast Guard intending on becoming a Fire Control Tech. Unfortunately, bad legs cut that career short after only 3 months. In late 1997, Jones moved to Virginia and not long after met Chuck Finch, who ran a late model regionally as well as with the Hav-A-Tampa series. For the next three summers he worked on late models for Finch and Booper Bare campaigning mainly in Virginia and North Carolina.
He also started another career, he rode bulls and broncs in the Southeastern Bull Riding Association (SEBRA).”I had a cousin who rode competitively and I decided to try my hand at riding saddle broncs,” says Jones. He won one rodeo and finished in the top 25 in both 1999 and 2000 before being severely injured by a bull in 2000 ending his rodeo career. Moving back to Nebraska, and later Council Bluffs in January 2003, he decided it was time to go racing again. It took him quite sometime to put everything together, and along the way in January 2004 he became a daddy. In August 2004 he ran his first modified race with the help of sponsor Shenanigan’s Karoke Bar of Council Bluffs, who provided Buddy with a great deal of support.
2005 would be a rough year for Buddy in racing, but 2006 things got better and he finished 15th in points at Blackbird Bend Speedway outside Onawa, Iowa on a budget of $1,500. This would not have been possible with out his sponsors. They include in addition to the Shenanigan’s, Beer City of Omaha, Twins Auto of Omaha, Porky’s Speed Shop of Council Bluffs, Justice Brothers of Omaha, Mike’s All City Services and Billy’s 66 both of Council Bluffs.
In 2007, Buddy Ray continued to race in the B mod class at I-80 Speedway. Driving a 1995 Sardeson owned by himself and his father and co-crew chief Oscar Jones. Crew support was provide by Ross Cerverny and Tim Clapper and then there’s Buddy’s girlfriend Rachael Lee, who is always there lending support. While his on track efforts may have been disappointing, he continued to bring joy and excitement to younger race fans. He let any kid who wanted to sign his race car and also presented a banner signed by over 270 drivers to a young boy attending his first race. I’m sure that young man will never forget that night.
Buddy Ray Jones may not have won a lot of races, but he and his band of racers certainly have won a lot of hearts and souls of misfortunate children! Late in 2006, Buddy Ray came up with an idea to do something for the children at Children’s Hospital in Omaha. In just three short weeks, Buddy and with the help of many others were able to raise $14,850 in cash and donations in just three weeks to make sure that all the children at Children’s Hospital had a package to open. They also had enough money left over to buy two much needed color televisions for the hospital.
“Unbelievable, in three short, frantic weeks, Buddy and his group were able to raise in excess of $14,000 to purchase patient gift boxes,” said Rob Harding of Children’s Hospital. “The drivers coming and spending time with the kids has also been a tremendous thrill for our patients.” standing Harding. Drivers visiting the hospital to present the gifts included; Buddy Ray, Rod Bronson, Joe Kosiski, Andrew Kosiski, Steve Peoples, Trish Dover, Phil Miller, Freddie Miller, Kenny Humpal, Tim Pritchett, Jr., Ray Dessel, Toby Chapman, and Grant Hulbert.
In July, Buddy Ray, Trish Dover and others were on hand at Children’s to help the kids celebrate Christmas in July. They even took along some race cars so the kids could get alook at them firsthand.
The response to the 2006 Christmas drive was overwhelming and Buddy Ray and his girlfriend, Rachel Lee decided to create the 2007 Holiday Horsepower Drive. The 2007 effort was even more successful than the 2006 drive. 61 donors provided cash, toys, shirts, decals and hero cards to the tune of $25,789 to make the 2007 Holiday Horsepower Drive an overwhelming success. In 2007, drivers visiting the hospital included; Buddy Ray, Joe and Andrew Kosiski. Adrian, Jack and Trish Dover, Steve Peoples, Jimmy Nichols, Brett Smith, Lacey Tuttle, Lindsey Yost, Freddie Miller, Kenny Humpal, Scott Green and Josh Schlotfield. The tireless efforts of these drivers, their families and others (including Quaker Steak and Lube and Beer City) all contributed to making the 2007 Holiday Horsepower Drive a big success.
“Buddy Ray is a dreamer, and when you are a dreamer and you have a lot of people helping you, you can make dreams come true,” said long time sponsor Mike Petry of Shenanigans. Shenanigans not only sponsored Buddy’s race car but were a big help in the fund raising efforts for the Holiday Horsepower Drive as well
Allysa Defrain, Development Officer for Children’s Miracle Network was excited to be involved with the drive in 2007. “It was my first year to work with Buddy Ray and the drivers and they were very enthusiastic. It was a real family effort, we had families of not only the children but the racers as well, said Defrain. They visited each and every child that it was possible to visit, giving each child a large bag of stickers, t-shirts and toys, and took to time to explain the meaning of many of the stickers.” They even left some toys to be a permanent part of the playroom. Another thing that was neat is that this year they had 3 young lady drivers who the young girls could relate better to.” Over 70 children received gift bags
Next year as a part of the Holiday Horsepower Drive, Buddy is hoping to have a family oriented benefit concert. He also hopes to have a turn-key cage cart and a 4 cylinder sports compact that will be raffled off to raise money for the drive. The drivers are also hoping to to set up college savings accounts that would accrue interest for 12 to 15 years for the youngest patients at the hospital
“I want to continue the Holiday Horsepower Drive and make it bigger each year.” said Jones. As far as racing goes, he hopes to work his way up to being able to driving an A Mod on weekly basis
Buddy Ray and his racers may not all be household names to race fans across the country, but they certainly have a huge following of little race fans that have been the recipients of their kindness and endless work. After seeing what this group has done in the first two years to bring happiness to the children of Children’s Hospital in Omaha, I’m betting that the 2008 Holiday Horsepower Drive will be bigger than the first two.
Let’s Help the Kids Again This Year!!!!