NASCAR driver unveils gift to his former elementary school

In a race that had more twists and turns than a Victorian melodrama, Erik Jones put the vaunted...
In a race that had more twists and turns than a Victorian melodrama, Erik Jones put the vaunted No. 43 Chevrolet back in Victory Lane for the first time since 2014.(NASCAR Communications)
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 9:18 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2023 at 12:12 PM EDT
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BYRON, Mich. (WNEM) - NASCAR driver Erik Jones is supporting young readers in his hometown of Byron with the gift of a “Bookworm Vending Machine.”

Students can earn points based on positive behavior to purchase books from the vending machine.

Jones’ gift kicks off an expansion of his reading program, #READwithErik, that includes increased activities at race tracks, a reading teacher recognition program, and book vending machine giveaways.

A teacher at Byron Elementary, Tammy Laurin, reached out to Jones for support and the vending machine is the idea he came up with.

“I am trying to bring the love of books to the next generation of readers and am so grateful to the Erik Jones Foundation for purchasing us a machine. I was determined to get one somehow and was ready to hold fundraisers to do it. Erik providing it means we can immediately start putting books into the hands of kids,” Laurin said.

Jones began the #READwithErik program by reading to children on his Facebook page when COVID-19 shut down the country in March 2020.

Since launching the program, Jones has read nearly 50 children’s books to young readers. In addition to reading online, Jones has also read books to children at several NASCAR races around the country.

“The reading program started as a way to connect with my fans, and the reaction I’ve received has been tremendously positive. I hope to use my success in NASCAR to help more kids develop a passion for reading. When I learned my former teacher needed funding to purchase the vending machine, I figured there was no better place to kick off my expanded program than here,” Jones said.

Jones’s family values and passion to give back drove him to establish the Erik Jones Foundation (EJF) in 2021. The mission of the EJF is to help change lives by igniting the passion for reading in children, promoting animal welfare, and encouraging early cancer detection and care.

Jones unveiled the machine at Byron Elementary on March 15.

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