Byron, Michigan native Erik Jones wanted to make sure his trip back to his home state was memorable as the NASCAR Cup Series visits the Michigan International Speedway this weekend.
It’s a monumental moment for the 25-year-old, announcing the establishment of the Erik Jones Foundation at an event Friday evening.
The foundation holds three pillars to its mission statement: early cancer detection and care, igniting the passion for reading among children, and animal welfare. The three parts to the foundation all hold a special meaning to the Michigan driver.
“The experiences I’ve had growing up shaped what my Foundation is about,” Jones said in a media release. “I really enjoy reading, but with all the technology kids have available to them today, the joy of just sitting down with a good book is getting lost. I want to change that. Obviously, losing my dad to cancer was hard – and it still is – but it’s made me so mindful of how important early detection is because the sooner you diagnose it, the more options you have for treatment. And I do love animals, and all the pets I’ve had meant a lot to me. I want to do what I can to ensure they’re enjoying healthy and happy lives, too.”
— Erik Jones (@Erik_Jones) August 20, 2021
When Jones’ father was in the midst of a cancer battle, he needed an outlet of comfort.
“Getting lost in a book and having a pet who seemed to understand what you were going through was like therapy,” Jones explained. “I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, and I’m lucky enough to be in a position in my life where I can help others. That’s what my Foundation is about.”
Driver No. 43 has always had a passion for reading as a kid, which continued into adulthood. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones launched #ReadWithErik, a social media series where he would read a children’s book live to his followers. Since its debut, over 130,000 views across 25 books show the demand for this niche connection between the driver and his fans.
As part of the foundation’s establishment, the EJF made a donation to the Genesse District Library in Michigan, which has 19 locations across the namesake’s county. Jones will read M is for Mitten: A Michigan Alphabet by Annie Appleford to children at the Graves Family Campground before Sunday’s race.
“COVID made life tough for everyone, but kids especially,” Jones said. “They couldn’t go to school and see their friends, and normal things like getting together at the cafeteria table all of a sudden just went away. I wanted to do something to try and make that a little bit better, and that’s how our virtual reading circle came together. I’m actually really looking forward to getting back to doing it in person this Sunday at Michigan.”