It's not everyday you get to spend lunch with a NASCAR Sprint Car driver, but that's how I spent my Tuesday. Ryan Newman came to visit the employees at Dixie Chopper and while the questions revolved around the sport, my interest in Newman lie elsewhere.
Sure, Newman has 14 Cup wins to his name, he's finished sixth in points three times and has sat on the pole 46 times, but what I found to be the most interesting aspect of Newman's career, is what he does off the track.
The Ryan Newman Foundation, an organization he started with is wife Krissie, provides information and resources about animal welfare and conservation.
Following his Q and A with the employees at Dixie Chopper, Newman acknowledged that while both aspects of the foundation are important, the animal aspect trumps all.
"The animal part is our primary focus -- what we can try to do to help control the overpopulation is important," he said. "In 2009, over five million animals were euthanized because of that overpopulation. Different states have different regulations and different shelters do different things and different humane societies do different things, but ultimately is the people's responsibility to control the overpopulation.
"The two ways you do it is spay and neutering of pets to keep them (from) overproducing. The second thing is to adopt. When you're looking for an animal, don't go out and spend $1,000 on what you think is going to be a great dog. You can go save a life, rescue an animal and get one that's probably going to love you more because of the situation it's been through," he said.
Newman is a far cry from the star celebrity that forms a foundation for the sake of having its name attached to something. Newman walks the walk and practices what he preaches and talked of the impact the shear numbers of animals being destroyed has on himself.
"All of our dogs, we have six of them, are shelter dogs of some sort or another and we just firmly believe that. Because it's tough in my eyes to sit there and say that we're killing five million of man's best friends and that's tough," Newman said.
I found it absolutely refreshing to find the passion with which he spoke about the foundation. It was just a few moments, but one would have to be blind not to see that this is something Newman feels in his soul. Being an animal lover myself, it's nice to see a star use his celebrity to accomplish something good in an area that desperately needs it.
The Foundation produced the book "Pit Road Pets: NASCAR Stars and Their Pet", which showcased some of the best and brightest stars of the sport with their animals. There's a second edition called "Pet Road Pets: The Second Lap", which focuses on the fans as well as the drivers.
Another element I found to be fantastic is all the net proceeds will be donated to animal causes. Again, putting his money where his mouth is.
I know this might come off as an endorsement and that's exactly what it is. I'm endorsing a man and a foundation that has the courage to do the right thing and help the animals that bring so much light to our lives.
It's sometimes easy to get caught up in our routine and forget that no matter how bad our day has been or how rotten we think our lives are, there's someone waiting at home who's yearning to make help make us smile and all they need is a little love.
As Paul McCartney so eloquently put it "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
Instead of giving a little and taking a lot, it's time we give the animals in our lives an equal amount of attention and respect.
It's easy for some to dismiss the impact an animal can have on a life, but when you read stories of animals alerting an owner to a fire or helping a family escape a possibly tragic situation, it's hard not to do everything one can to make sure they have a fighting chance.
"There's a lot of good things people are doing for kids, cancer, diseases and old people and things like that, which is great, but animals are part of what we enjoy as well," Newman said.
For more information on The Ryan Newman Foundation, visit www.ryannewmanfoundation.org/