CEDAR RAPIDS – Tuesday marked the beginning of a big month for Cedar Rapids native and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Joey Gase.
April is Donate Life Month, and that holds special significance to Gase, whose mother Mary died on April 3, 2011 and was an organ donor. Gase was in Des Moines at Iowa Methodist and Blank’s Children’s Hosptial on Tuesday, along with a recipient of his mother’s donation, Jordan Shaw, to tell his family’s story and help promote the Iowa Donor Network.
Gase is proud to spread the message and encourage people to become organ donors. He’s shared his story on numerous occasions and attended these functions repeatedly, but it’s still never an easy story to retell.
“I still tend to get emotional. I’m kind of at the point where I’m fine nine out of 10 times, but the time you think you won’t get emotional, you’ll be really emotional,” Gase said. “You just never know how your emotions will be. But it’s always really special to be able to talk about my mom and spread the important message about donation.”
Gase and Shaw, who received Mary Gase’s kidney after her death, spoke to a room full of more than 100 people about what their experience was like, and why donation was so important. In addition to speaking
Seeing Shaw again added to the importance of the day for Gase.
“It’s special to see Jordan again, so I know my mom is living on through him,” Gase said.
Gase said there were even recent recipients who made their way down from recovery rooms to listen to him speak. Gase and his group also went up to visit others who couldn’t leave their rooms.
His work in Des Moines, which he’ll continue in Iowa City later this month, isn’t only to help promote a message he cares about so deeply, but also to help his race team.
Gase and his Jimmy Means Racing team are sponsored by the Iowa Donor Network, as well as other states’ networks when he’s in various parts of the country on the Nationwide tour.
“This year Alabama and Mississippi are teaming up together to help us for the Talladega race, so that’s one new one, and we’re working on a couple others,” Gase said. “We have Virginia for the Richmond race, and also Michigan, so the list just keeps growing and growing. It’s going good.”
A goal Gase had before the season was to get as many states on board as possible, with those dual goals.
Events like Tuesday’s provide evidence for other state donor networks that putting their name on a race car and having a driver to help promote them is a positive thing.
“It definitely helps. It shows how much awareness you can really get out there,” Gase said. “The events are set up through the Iowa Donor Network … so they can transfer on (to the other state networks) how big of an impact it really makes.”
As the relationship with his sponsor work strengthens, Gase is able to make improvements on the track as well. More sponsor dollars equal better equipment to further the 21 year-old’s career.
He currently sits 20th in Nationwide driver points, and his No. 52 team is 28th in owner points. Both those marks are within the range his team was aiming for at the start of the season.
“So far, we’re meeting all our goals this year,” Gase said. “That’s going well and hopefully we keep on going. We had a strong run in Phoenix and finished 24th, and had another strong run at California (finishing 26th).
“We’ve just got to keep the sponsorships coming, and (better equipment) will come along with it.”