NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth has spent his career turning more heads than he has corners on racing’s largest stage.
The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has enjoyed the spoils of more than 500 starts in his 16-year Sprint Cup career, having made the chase for the championship nine of 10 years. Kenseth has visited victory lane more than 30 times, raced to more than 140 top-five finishes and has spun his tires in 2009 and 2013 as a Daytona 500 champion. But the success the Cambridge, Wis., native has enjoyed did not prevent one of Kenseth’s daughters from being on the receiving end of bullying.
“One of our daughters had an experience where she was bullied at school,” Kenseth said. “It was a topic we were considering (for the book) because it’s the last thing you want is for your kid to be bullied or to be a bully. We believe it’s important our kids not only know how to deal with a bully, but also understand that it’s not OK to act like one.”
On National Youth Literacy Day, Matt Kenseth debuted “Matt Kenseth’s Race Against Bullying,” the first children’s book of a series aimed at educating and empowering children to make good choices if faced with bullying. Kenseth released the book with his wife, Katie, at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters.
“Matt was actually teased a bit when he was in high school,” Katie said. “He didn’t play football, he raced. He wasn’t a big guy; he was kind of skinny.”
One major challenge for children who experience being bullied is not only battling the hurt of feeling unliked, but also fearing what could happen if they seek help.
“A lot of parents see bullying differently now than they did when Matt and I were kids,” Katie said. “I know I wouldn’t be able to rest if I knew my child hurt someone else intentionally. I don’t think I could sleep at night until things were set right. There are parents out there who don’t feel that same sense of responsibility.”
In the “Race Against Bullying” story, Matt and his friend Katie are forced to deal with a bully at school. Matt finds himself frustrated and not sure how to handle the situation until he finds support and help through friends and family.
“I’m a few years older than Katie, so if it were realistic, then my character should be pushing my wife Katie’s character around in a stroller,” Kenseth joked. “I think most of us have experienced a bully at some point in life, so I think the story is easy to relate to. Hopefully this book will help families openly discuss bullying, its effects, and how to deal with those situations.”
Dollar General is the primary sponsor of Joe Gibbs’ No. 20 race car, which serves as Kenseth’s chariot for 10 months of the year.
“We’re excited to partner with Matt to raise awareness and provide solutions to childhood bullying, especially since it reflects our mission of serving others,” said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s chairman and CEO. “The project also combines Dollar General’s passion for literacy and reading through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation with the strong representation Matt brings to both Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR.”
The “Race against Bullying” book is the first of a series the Kenseths hope to publish in the future.
“We’ve selected nutrition for the topic of the second book,” Kenseth said. “We’ve discussed honesty for the topic of the third book and the fourth one we’ve purposely left open for the moment.”
Kenseth, an avid reader, has helped support literacy programs throughout his career and serves as an ambassador for the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Sharing in both Dollar General and Kenseth’s commitment to literacy is longtime Kenseth sponsor Citizen Watch, which made a $25,000 donation on Kenseth’s behalf to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation in honor of the book launch.
“Our new brand statement ‘Better Starts Now’ is about reaching inside yourself to do things better. With the launch of his new book, Matt has shown us that this motto is part of his character both on and off the track,” Citizen Watch President Jeffrey Cohen said. “With statistics showing bullying and harassment becoming an even bigger social problem, a book like this is just what is needed to help start the conversation earlier between parents and children. Citizen Watch Company has supported higher education for the past two years as a corporate sponsor of the National Merit Scholarship Foundation and we are proud to expand our educational support with a donation to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation in honor of Matt Kenseth.”
According to www.stopbullying.gov, more than 70 percent of students say they have seen bullying in their schools and less than 30 percent of students who are bullied notify an adult. More information can be found at www.stopbullying.gov.
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