Claudia Byrd had a simple plan Saturday afternoon: She'd go to the Lions Club's Fall Convention, watch her husband speak and then say a few words herself about Bristol Speedway Children's Charities.

But things didn't go that way. Claudia Byrd's husband, Bristol Motor Speedway President Jeff Byrd, introduced her at the meeting right before the Lions Club recognized her with its Distinguished Humanitarian Award.

"My husband brought me here under false pretenses," Claudia Byrd said, admitting the honor caught her by surprise and left her speechless for a rare moment in her life.

Lions of Virginia Foundation Past President Jan Bowling said the Distinguished Humanitarian Award recognizes people who have "really given from their heart." It is the group's top honor and given to only a few Southwest Virginia residents each year.

"She deserves special recognition," Bowling said, adding that Claudia Byrd was chosen for the honor because of her work with the Bristol chapter of Speedway Children's Charities. She is the chapter director.

The charity uses events including Speedway in Lights and the Sharky 500 to raise money for nonprofit groups that work with children in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The group gave $575,000 to 83 local children's groups during its Night of Smiles event in November 2008. Since it was founded in 1996, the chapter has distributed $4.5 million.

"I love children," Claudia Byrd said explaining why she works with the group. "I have the best job in the world because I get to make a difference in the lives of children."