HOMESTEAD—Guy Roper left his house in Hollywood, Fla., yesterday morning on a mission: The 70-year-old retired restaurateur was making the 65-mile trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway to register for the National Marrow Donor Program at the Speedway's 2nd Annual "Spirit of America" Blood and Marrow Drive—and to give thanks for the marrow donation that saved his son's life.
Last year, 35-year-old firefighter Guy Roper Jr. was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and received a life-saving marrow transplant that led to his full recovery.
"If he had not gotten the transplant when he did, he might not have survived," said Guy Sr. "I can't thank these guys enough—Rick Hendrick, the Speedway and NASCAR. That's why I’m here today."
Roper Sr. was joined by donors across the country Tuesday as part of a circuit-wide effort by the NASCAR Foundation, Jimmie Johnson Foundation and Hendrick Marrow Program to collect blood, register donors to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) and raise community awareness. In Homestead, the drive was held in partnership with Florida’s Blood Centers and Kids Beating Cancer, and ran from noon to 9:11 p.m. to commemorate victims of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.
"This is such a great cause; 60 percent of the population will need blood or marrow some time in their lives," said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray. “There’s no reason not to donate.”
All blood donors and marrow participants received Subway sandwiches, gift bags courtesy of the track—featuring collectable race cars, gift certificates, wrist bands and posters—and were entered to win tickets to NASCAR’s Busch Series Ford 300 during Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 16-18).
For Guy Roper Sr., it wasn’t about the tickets, the lunch or the gift bag. For a father who had seen first-hand the devastation of a bone-marrow disease and the life-saving effects of a marrow transplant, Roper came to help out the sons of other fathers.
“As a father, seeing your son like that—I’ve never been afraid of anything in my life until then; I was scared to death,” Guy Sr. said. “This is where people like Rick Hendrick, the Speedway and all the NASCAR guys really help out.”
NASCAR returns to Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval Nov. 16-18, as the NEXTEL Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series all crown champions under the lights during Ford Championship Weekend. Additional festivities include Ford Racefest—featuring live concerts, interactive exhibits, NASCAR drivers and the NEXTEL Cup trophy on display—the Homestead-Miami Speedway Celebrity Golf Classic, the Hot Rods & Reels fishing tournament and Ford’s “Bailando Por La Copa” salsa-dance finals. For NASCAR tickets, please call (866) 409-RACE or visit www.RaceTickets.com. For more information, please visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com.