Things I Can Thank My NASCAR-Loving PawPaw For
The Ride’s Communications Specialist Ginny Talley shares how she landed her job and why she’s here to stay
Hey y’all, Ginny here. I started these Spotlight Stories at the beginning of 2021 as a way for our Riders and fans to read and get to know more about each other and the Ride in a more detailed, personal manner. Each person that has been featured so far has revealed incredibly meaningful stories related to the Ride that have made people smile, laugh, and even shed a tear or two. As the final Spotlight Story of the year, I thought I would share my own – the one that brought me to the Ride and the reason I’m here to stay.
If I really think about it, I can credit my PawPaw Geezer for ultimately landing me at the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. Yes, Geezer, you read that right. It’s been a long-running joke in my family, since before I was even born, that my grandfather is an “old fart” and hence he was deemed an old geezer. I remember as a young child, growing up in the 90s, that my PawPaw was a diehard fan for many people and teams. His garage was dedicated to celebrating each of them. He had an entire wall covered in memorabilia of his beloved UNC Tar Heels and another wall decorated with posters of his favorite big screen actors: Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. In one corner, he had a shrine to his favorite red-headed country crooning cowgirl, Reba McEntire. And finally, he had another corner dedicated to none other than the king of NASCAR – Richard Petty.
It made sense that The King would be his favorite race car driver. The Petty family lived and built race cars just a short 10 miles away from where our family was raised, so of course he rooted for the local race team and drivers. Every Sunday after church, my Nana would cook lunch and my PawPaw would have the race on in the living room, cheering for the No. 43.
I never really realized how much of that NASCAR knowledge I had retained until I was a couple years out of college and working for a public relations firm. Through one of our clients, we worked on charitable campaigns that benefitted Victory Junction. Ultimately, that connection to Victory Junction, led to Kyle Petty inquiring about our services to promote the Ride. It was 2015 and I was feeling stifled in a role, working with clients in the technology and healthcare fields. I had gotten into PR with the intentions of working with clients in the lifestyle, entertainment and/or sports industry, so I had begun to look for a new role. I was in the early stages of interviewing with a few companies in the Nashville music industry, when Kyle initiated an introductory meeting with my PR firm to see if we might be a good fit for them. I was chosen to be a part of the meeting based on my work with Victory Junction. The day of the meeting, it became apparent that my boss and colleagues were very unfamiliar with NASCAR and the Petty family, in general. This is where all that racing knowledge I learned from PawPaw came into play and it was my time to shine!
Right off the bat, Kyle and I bonded over our nearby hometowns. We had played on the same ball fields, ate at the same restaurants, knew many of the same people, etc. We had a mutual understanding of each other immediately, and it helped us seal the deal on signing the Ride as a client. I took on a leadership role, managing the account with the Ride – coordinating media interviews, social media content and more. I was hooked immediately and began to push the thoughts of switching jobs aside. Even though I still had to do work for clients I didn’t enjoy, the Ride made up for it because I loved the work I was doing for them. After going on my first Ride in 2016, I didn’t want it to end. The people I met, the towns we visited, the memories we made…it was all incredible. Kyle and Morgan tried to describe it to me beforehand, but honestly you can’t really put into words how special it is.
Within a year or so after that first Ride, I had gotten closer to Kyle and Morgan and realized that I wanted to expand my role and focus solely on making the Ride the best it can possibly be. In November 2017, I left the PR firm and began working as a full-time employee for the Ride. As the Communications Specialist, I oversee all things communications…obviously! While there isn’t enough time to list all the things Morgan and I do at the Charity Ride office, here are some of the things I’m now able to focus heavily on as a full-time employee: creating all social media posts and interacting with fans on social media; pitching media interviews and securing coverage in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV; managing the Ride’s website; sending e-newsletter campaigns; designing graphics, logos, merchandise materials, etc.; working with mayors, governors, visitor bureaus, schools, hotels, sponsors and local fundraising organizations to spread the word and make each Ride pit stop as big as possible.
Each year, I try to get more and more creative and come up with new ways to engage our Riders, fans, sponsors, etc. The more chatter I can create about the Ride in the news, on social media or through word-of-mouth, the more people can learn about our cause – raising funds and awareness for Victory Junction! The Camp is truly an incredible place. Growing up nearby, I had heard about Victory Junction and knew about Adam’s story. My dad even made regular donations to Camp for as long as I can remember. However, I never truly grasped how amazing Camp is until I started working for the Ride, meeting the campers and their families and hearing stories about how Victory Junction has impacted their lives. I started volunteering with Victory Junction’s REACH team in Charlotte, bringing crafts and games to kids at Levine’s Children Hospital and Ronald McDonald House. Each child can escape their medical needs for a short while and enjoy just being a kid by painting a canvas, making sand art, playing inflatable bowling, singing songs and more. Being able to bring the magic of Victory Junction to these kids is incredibly humbling and it inspires me to want to continue doing even more to make these experiences possible.
If the kids at Victory Junction weren’t enough of a blessing and inspiration, there’s also our Riders. When I first met Kyle and Morgan, they told me that everyone is like a big family…and man, were they right! I was immediately welcomed with open arms by the people on this Ride. I’m sucker for good stories – hence why I started writing these Spotlight Stories – and I love talking to our Riders about where they’re from, what brought them to the Ride, what they do for fun, their favorite Ride memories and more! I look forward to seeing them on the Ride each year, visiting with them when they drop by our office, and following along with their activities on social media. This Ride is made up of some of the most interesting people from all over the country and from all walks of life. And best of all, every single one of them has the biggest heart for giving. They’ll give you the shirt off their back…literally! When we’re caught in the rain at a Ride pitstop and I have to run around meeting media and coordinating the fans, our Riders will lend me their rain gear without hesitation! They also always offer up a spot on their motorcycle for me to ride along during the Ride. Usually, I’m too busy working in the car during the Ride, but one of these days you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to hop on for a leg or two!
I’ve never driven a motorcycle, but I do have experience as a companion rider. It all goes back to that PawPaw Geezer of mine. Up until his back started acting up on him, he rode motorcycles. Some of my fondest memories with him are from our motorcycle rides together. I could hear him coming from what seemed like a mile away to pick me up for ride. He even picked me up from school on his Harley-Davidson and I felt like the coolest kid in town jumping on the back to head home.
A few years back, my PawPaw and Nana moved out of their home and downsized. As we packed up that beloved garage of his, I found a plaque from Tilley Harley-Davidson of Statesville. Turns out my PawPaw bought the bike that I rode the most on with him from none other than Don Tilley – one of the original Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America riders and the “Rand McNally” of the Ride’s routes for 20 years. So who knows? Maybe it’s fate after all that I ended up at the Ride or maybe my PawPaw Geezer is just my good luck charm. Either way, I’m just grateful that I found my way here and I’m here to stay. Good luck getting rid of me!