What would you put on the hood of your race car?
Originally published in www.MancavePlaybabes.com – feature story by Michelle Sports X
It’s not unusual for me to take some time after interviewing someone to get the write-up finished. It can take awhile for me to absorb all that I’ve learned about a person’s journey and figure out the exact angle I want to use when I do the write-up. Sometimes I sit for hours and ponder just how I want to begin because the introduction can be so important, and I know it is the beginning of my article that might work to inspire a reader to want to keep reading. This time, more so than any other, I wanted to find the right words to get my readers to continue to read on, because this time more than any other time, I knew that my article might actually serve as a means to help save the next girl.
Her name was Morgan Dana Harrington. She was twenty years old when she was abducted, raped and murdered. There was no comfort for her parents in knowing that she likely died instantly because she probably died in excruciating horrific pain at the hands of her murderer.
Just how did I come to know about Morgan Harrington’s death? I came to know about Morgan’s homicide by way of Chad Ricker when he sent me a tweet that included a photo of his racecar. In the photo that showed the hood of that car, there was a message. It was a message I chose not to ignore.
Chad Ricker is a racecar driver. It is because of him that I learned about Morgan Harrington’s death, and it is because of him that I am determined to help save the next girl. He is the man I interviewed for this article, and if you have the time I would like to ask you to continue reading to learn how you too can help save the next girl.
Morgan Harrington was a fan of rock music. In fact the night she was abducted she attended a Metallica concert at the John Paul Jones arena at the University of Virginia. Sadly, Morgan never made it home after the concert. The worst thing that could have ever happened for this beautiful young lady happened. A parent’s worst nightmare, the scariest thing ever, to learn your child is missing, is what Gil and Dan Harrington learned soon after the concert took place in October of 2009. In January of 2010, they learned her remains were found about ten miles from the arena.
Chad Ricker is on Twitter. His handle is @ChadRicker31. His bio states that he is a developmental driver looking to showcase his talent on a national level. Moonshine Capital Promotions, and Back2Back UCAR Champion [in] 2013, 2014, are among his accomplishments.
Chad is not the first racecar driver who has reached out to me on Twitter to ask for my support for his racing efforts. Lots of drivers share their stories and ask me to help bring awareness to their desire to gain sponsorship. Yet Chad was not looking for me to help him find sponsors, nor was he looking for me to sponsor his racecar. No, Chad, was looking for me to share the message that’s written on the hood of his car. That message being, ‘Help Save the Next Girl.’
When I first got the tweet from Chad, I took a moment to look at the photo that showed the message on the hood of his racecar. I then took a look at his timeline on Twitter and noticed that I was one of many he had reached out to in an attempt to share about his initiative. He was trying to get others to notice what was written on the hood of his racecar.
Of course I realize he had reached out to me because of my work in the sports world, and because he was reaching out to several journalists. At that time he was sharing his tweets he had no idea that I had spent most of my adult life advocating and working on helping to save the next girl in my own way. He did not know we were passionate about the same cause, even though I had not yet heard of the non-profit organization he was supporting. He knew nothing of my advocacy work to help abused children, my work as a tutor in Drug Court, my education in the field of criminal justice. Nor was he aware of my pursuit of my Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Policy Administration/Law. He also had no real way of knowing that I myself had been a victim of a horrible crime many years ago. Nor was it likely he thought that anyone might stop and take notice to his cause after he tweeted what seemed to be a myriad of tweets to random addresses. Yet I did take notice. How could I not? How could anyone not have a desire to help save the next girl?
Not only did I take the time to respond to Chad about his tweet, I decided to learn more. Soon after I got Chad’s tweet, and noticed the message on the hood of his racecar, I sent him a direct message asking that he verify for me the non-profit organization he was racing in honor of. Sadly, so many times there can be online scams and I wanted to be sure I took the time to be sure Chad truly was racing in honor of a legit organization, and make certain he was not a fraud. It’s sad but true, that you need to be careful when someone shares about a charitable endeavor online, and I wanted to be mindful of this. So I did my homework.
Within a few moments of my reaching out to Chad, an email arrived in my inbox, with the name of the organization, Help Save the Next Girl, founded in honor of the beautiful aspiring young lady, Morgan Harrington, who had dreams of becoming a teacher. For a moment I wished that Chad was in fact a fraud, and that there was no real organization, because then Morgan’s victimization would not be so real. Learning about Morgan Harrington’s death, and seeing Gil and Dan Harrington copied on the email Chad sent me made it oh so very real.
All the wishing in the world was never going to bring back the lovely young lady who lost her life after she attended that Metallica concert. The only thing that can be done is work on helping to save others and that’s exactly what Chad wants to do. He wants to race, for the others to learn, about how to ‘Help Save the Next Girl.’
The morning I spoke with Chad I discovered he is a passionate man, who seems to want to do all he can to help give back to the community, and be there not only for his own family, but the family of Morgan Harrington.
Dan and Gil Harrington, Morgan’s parents, are the founders of the non-profit organization, Help Save the Next Girl. Help Save the Next Girl is a national non-profit organization formed in honor of Morgan Dana Harrington, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who was abducted and murdered in 2009. The hood of Chad’s racecar has no sponsor. It simply states, ‘Help Save the Next Girl,’ and Chad is honored to look to race for this very important cause. It is with Gil and Dan Harrington’s blessing that Chad race in honor of their daughter, and their non-profit organization.
Just what was it that caused Chad to want to race in honor of Morgan Harrington rather than look to have a more traditional type of sponsor? When asked, he shared that it is his devotion to his wife, and her daughter, Kayleigh. As Chad described his love for his family, he shared that he is ever mindful that anyone of us might be able to save the next girl, and it is his love for his own family and his passion for the community that gives so much support to him that makes him want to do more.
In speaking with Chad, I learned that he has been racing for most of his life. He shared that it was his dad that caused him to develop a desire to race and since as long as he can remember he has felt a desire to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
When Chad was about the age of five he was given a second hand go-cart. Eventually at the age of eleven he learned how to drive a stick shift vehicle and at about the age of fourteen he was racing for a local speedway, Franklin County Speedway, in Callaway, Virginia. Chad would go on to enroll at the NASCAR Technical Training Program where he learned everything he needed to know about racing. Chad worked at Buck Baker Racing School as an instructor and the two main tracks he worked were Bristol Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor. Not unlike other racecar drivers, Chad knows that racing costs money. He’s worked hard over the years to gain a competitive edge, and after returning to Franklin County Speedway he ended up having nine podium finishes and would eventually gain his first championship in 2013.
Last year, despite Chad Ricker having only two wins in competition in Moonshine Capital Promotions races he had a very successful year. He dominated the MCP event at Ace Speedway on July 4th and then picked up a pair of wins at another track. Chad has a huge fan base, and a lot of supporters. Along with Gil and Dan Harrington, Moonshine Capital Promotions promoter Langley Austin is a huge supporter of Chad’s racing. Last year Austin was instrumental in helping to promote Chad’s racing and several sources quoted Langley as saying he thought that Chad was definitely the man to beat, and placed a bounty on him.
Chad will be looking for his third championship at the Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, VA. If he can win this year that’s 3 championships at 3 different tracks which will prove his diversity at many venues.
This year Chad is racing in honor of Morgan Harrington. The logo of the non-profit organization, founded by Gil and Dan Harrington sits on the hood of his car. Why? “It’s the least I can do to help share awareness and give back to the community that gives so much to me,” Chad said. For his stepdaughter, Kayleigh, and in honor of all young girls, he wants to do all he can to prevent another tragedy from happening. “It’s all I can do, to help save the next girl,” he said.
To learn more about how you can help save the next girl, and help support the organization, Chad is racing in honor of, visit www.helpsavethenextgirl.com and follow @ChadRicker and @SavetheNextGirl on Twitter. To learn more about how you can help Chad’s initiative to continue racing in honor of this organization, you are welcome to follow him @ChadRicker31 and reach out to him directly. Chad covers the expenses on his own because he never wants anyone to think that he would seek to take any money away from the organization’s resources. When I suggested he have his fans consider developing a fund to offset his expenses, he immediately said, I would hate for any resources to ever go toward me, when there is a chance they could go to help save the next girl.