IN THE PITS

Letís meet and talk with Krissie Newman, Co-Founder, Ryan Newman Foundation and learn about her wonderful work with animals.

Krissie Newman, 28, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and received a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Shippensburg University. She was preparing for a law degree when she met her future husband, NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, and found herself on the NASCAR circuit full time.

In January 2005, Krissie and Ryan founded the Ryan Newman Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to educate and encourage people to spay/neuter their pets and to adopt dogs and cats from animal shelters; to educate children and adults about the importance of conservation so the beauty of the great outdoors can be appreciated by future generations; and to provide college scholarship funding through the Rich Vogler Scholarship program to students interested in auto racing careers.

Well before the Foundation existed, Krissie had involved herself in animal rescue efforts on a regular basis. All four of their dogs (Digger, Harley, Mopar and Socks) are rescues, and she regularly rescues abandoned dogs or puppies (even entire litters) and finds them homes. She has also been contacted by NASCAR fans about pets in trouble and has provided personal assistance and financial support, often traveling to their homes, to help those animals. The attached ďAbout the Ryan Newman FoundationĒ document illustrates one such story, a situation that prompted Krissie and Ryanís decision to start the Foundation.

Krissie serves on the Board of Directors for the Humane Society of Catawba County (HSSC) in Hickory, N.C., and actively participates in shelter activities including volunteering and fundraising events. She and Ryan also serve as the Honorary Co-Chairmen of the humane societyís capital campaign to raise money for a new no-kill shelter that will serve eight counties in North Carolina Ė the heart of NASCAR country. Most recently she and Ryan, through the Ryan Newman Foundation, donated $400,000 to HSSCís capital campaign to create the Ryan Newman Foundation Spay/Neuter Clinic in conjunction with the new shelter.

Krissie also spearheaded an animal rescue effort in Gulfport, Mississippi, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. She and three others traveled to the area and delivered truckloads of Purina pet food, water, animal supplies and veterinary supplies to the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi (HSSM). They spent several days hand-delivering food and supplies throughout the area, then returned to North Carolina with a bus full of rescued pets Ė 30 total Ė that had been abandoned and have since been adopted. The story captured the imagination of hundreds of fans and supporters, who donated funds toward the effort and enabled the Foundation to donate a total of $19,000 to HSSM by the end of 2005.

That same summer and fall, Krissie spearheaded another major project Ė a Ryan Newman Foundation publication called Pit Road Pets: NASCAR Stars and Their Pets. Itís a hardcover, 164-page book featuring intimate first-person stories and photographs from nearly 50 NASCAR celebrities and their pets. Krissie had the vision to create a book as a fundraiser Ė a book that highlights how much pets mean to the NASCAR community. She was instrumental in securing the participation of the sportís biggest names, some of whom do not have pets but agreed to be photographed with shelter dogs. True to form, the book also carries a strong message about responsible pet ownership, including adoption and spaying/neutering. The February 2006 release is available now at major bookstores across the country, and 100% of the Foundationís proceeds from the book will be donated toward humane causes. The book can also be purchased online at www.pitroadpets.com.

Future plans include creating more projects that will build a large enough endowment for the Foundation to significantly impact spay/neuter efforts nationwide. The Foundation will continue to identify and support worthwhile humane causes across the country. And Krissie still hasnít ruled out finishing her law degree.

What inspired you to get involved in humane causes?

Ryan and I are true animal lovers. Our four dogs have become like children to us. They are so much fun. If we could take in every homeless animal, we would. But it's just not possible. So, we're dedicating our time and abilities to educating others about animal adoption and pet care.

You and Ryan have rescued all four of your dogs. What advice would you give to others considering adopting a shelter animal?

If you donít have time to care for pets, then you should wait before getting one. We spend a lot of time with our dogs, and they are part of our life. If you donít have time to potty train and obedience train dogs, then you should wait to get a dog when you have more time. Pets require a big commitment.

Whatís life like with four dogs in the house?

Very busy. Thereís always something going on. They are very good dogs, and they actually behave very well. When theyíre not around, itís really lonely. We missed them when we were gone on vacation for two weeks over the holidays.

What made you and Ryan decide to form the Ryan Newman Foundation?

I started volunteering on the board of our local humane society a few years ago because I wanted to help other abandoned animals who deserve the same chance we gave our four dogs when we rescued them. Ryan and I canít take in all the homeless dogs and cats out there, but we can help humane societies across the nation through education, resources and funding from our foundation. Ryan is an avid fisherman, so we also wanted to educate people about the importance of taking care of the land and waterways so future generations can enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. And Ryan received the Rich Vogler Scholarship to go to college, so we wanted to help fund that program as well.

What is your involvement with the Humane Society of Catawba County?

Iím on the board of directors there, plus Ryan and I serve as the honorary chairs of the HSCC capital campaign. The Humane Society staff does amazing work, but our current rented shelter will not meet the new state regulations, and itís falling apart. In order to stop the needless euthanization of more than 5,500 animals in Catawba County each year, weíre building a 14,000 square foot multi-purpose facility. It will include a permanent, innovative no-kill animal shelter, an education center, and a regional spay/neuter clinic that will allow us to help humane societies from the mountains through Lake Norman and down into even some parts of Charlotte.

You recently went to the Gulf region to deliver pet food and rescue homeless pets for adoption in North Carolina following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. What prompted you to do this?

We heard on the news that large numbers of people refused to leave their homes because they would not go with human aid groups that told them they must leave their animals in order to be rescued themselves. Our hearts went out to those people who loved their animals so much that they would put their own lives in danger to save the lives of their helpless pets. After the hurricane, other families who did evacuate came home to find their homes destroyed. They were living in their cars with their children and pets. We wanted to help those people and their animals, so we brought a truckload of supplies and a truckload of donated Purina pet food to Gulfport, MS. I went down there for a week to volunteer with our foundation director, Rosalie De Fini, her husband, Joe Ley, and our assistant, Michelle Croom. We spent a week distributing much-needed supplies to New Orleans, Slidell and Gulfport. Then we brought back a busload of rescued dogs that were adopted from Project Halo to families in and around Charlotte. It was a life-changing experience.

We also raised $19,000 that we donated to four nonprofit animal rescue groups that saved Hurricane Katrina animals. They are still down in Louisiana and Mississippi working with Katrina animals that were never claimed. Those animals are being transported all over the country for adoption.

What inspired you to produce Pit Road Petsô: NASCAR Stars and Their Pets? What do you hope people will enjoy most about the book?

We wanted to educate people about animal welfare issues. Most NASCAR drivers have pets, and a lot of them have rescued a dog or cat or have supported humane societies in their community. Many of them talk in the book about why they, too, felt it was important to spay or neuter their pets.

The book is a special peek into the homes and lives of peopleís favorite NASCAR drivers. Youíll see pictures of them with their families and pets, in their motorcoaches, at the racetrack or in their living rooms at home. Thatís not something you get to see very often, and I think fans will really enjoy that.

If you could encourage people to do one thing to help the homeless pet population, what would it be and why?

Spay or neuter your pets! The only way to solve the animal overpopulation problem and stop needless deaths in our local county animal shelters is to prevent unwanted litters by spaying and neutering your dogs and cats.

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