The Dizmang-Espy family of Kansas City, Kansas was invited by Eckrich to Price Choper on Friday morning to pick up what they thought were tickets to the NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway as a thank-you for their service.
Once there, the family received far more than just the tickets they were promised. Shortly after their arrival and the presentation of the tickets, the number 43 Aric Almirola Sprint Cup race car came roaring around the north side of the grocery store.
There’s no denying that the 800+ horsepower of a NASCAR race car is an impressive site. But it’s arguable the sounds and sights of a life being change by others easily surpasses the four-wheeled machines.
The next surprise for the Dizmang-Espy family was much quieter in sound and smaller in horsepower. A new, four-door, white 2016 Ford Fusion emerged from the north side of the building. The Fusion was driven by the 78-year-old Richard Petty. Petty, who holds more race wins then any other driver in the history of the sport, emerged from the driver’s seat to hand the family the keys to the new car.
Seconds later David Ball, CEO and President of Ball’s Food Stores, announced that the area grocer was giving the family an entire year’s worth of groceries.
“On behalf of the Price Chopper family, our 8,000 teammates, all the service men and women around the country, we thank you for your service, so that we can live the lives that we do. We want to provide you with a year’s supply of free groceries.”
It was an emotional experience for Retired Army Sergeant Mike Dizmang-Espy, and his wife, Diana, a member of the National Guard. Mike Dizmang-Espy served in the Army for 11 years and deployed to Iraq for three times during his service. Diana recently commissioned with the National Guard and also participates in Operation Homefront‘s Hearts of Valor program as her husband’s caregiver. She said that she enlisted in the National Guard nearly two years ago to gain experience to be a psychologist to work with soldiers who have PTSD.
According to a press release from Eckrich, the new car and gift of groceries are part of the commitment by Eckrich to honor, thank, and support military families through its partnership with Operation Homefront, a national non-profit whose mission is to build strong, secure military families. Petty Motorsports has partnered with Eckrich for several years to honor military families.
Eckrich, in its fourth year of supporting Operation Homefront, recently surpassed $1 million in monetary donations since the start of the program in 2012.
We spoke with John Dowling of Eckrich before the event started. We asked how the program began four years ago. Dowling told us the relationship was thought up through Eckrich. They brought it to Richard Petty Motorsports and brought it together with NASCAR.
Charles Gitkin, Senior Vice President of Marketing with Smithfield Foods (owner of the Eckrich brand) said of the event, “We appreciate the sacrifices that both Mike and Diana have made, and Eckrich is honored to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you.’
We also talked with a spokesperson from Price Chopper before the event.
“Price Chopper supports the military year round with several initiatives. They believe it’s important to be locally minded, and are appreciative of local families like the Dizmang-Espys who serve. This family is a representative example of the people in our communities here in the metro that we should be supporting. We’re proud to be a part of improving this military family’s life over the next year.”
Petty was interviewed briefly after the gifts were presented.
Before the interview began, Ball quickly grabbed some KCFD firefighters who had been shopping in the store for a photo opportunity with the Petty. As most of Kansas City is aware, it has been a challenging week with the loss of two firefighters in Kansas City.
Petty said, “It feels really good to be working with a company like Eckrich to give back to the community who take care of us so we can do what we want to do. Just being a part of that really makes Richard Petty Motorsports proud.”
The Dizmang-Espys also answered a few questions. Both were still overwhelmed by the surprise, Mike Dizman-Espy said that he was grateful how much this would help ease the burden on his family.
You can watch the full video of the event below from our YouTube channel.