A record $650,000 was handed out to 84 area children's agencies Thursday evening by the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities, breaking the previous grant total by $75,000 in a year clouded by economic uncertainty.

Last year, $575,000 was awarded to agencies in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, a record amount at that point. Faced with the current economic challenges, it seemed matching that total, much less surpassing it in 2009, would be a difficult task.

Those concerns were laid to rest on Thursday.

"I am honestly just so overwhelmed," said Claudia Byrd, director of the Bristol Chapter of SCC. "This year has been tough for so many people and it's definitely been a trying situation for these organizations. In the challenging times like we're facing, needs often increase as contributions decrease.

"I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of the people who have supported our events. It just says so much about how many good-hearted folks are out there who truly want to make a difference in the lives of children. I thank each and every one of them from the bottom of my heart for making this possible tonight."

The 12-year total of monies raised now exceeds a remarkable $5.2 million. In just the last six years, in excess of $3.5 million has been raised for the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities.

While the Autotrader.com Speedway In Lights powered by TVA show is the principal fundraiser for Speedway Children's Charities, there are a number of other events held throughout the year that also benefit the foundation. The Sharky 500, a rubber shark race held at BMS, takes place in October, and golf tournaments are held prior to the NHRA event in May and during the August NASCAR race week. The Eastman Motorsports Auction also occurs in August while the popular "Ride of a Lifetime" Speedway Children's Charities Auction takes place prior to both the March and August NASCAR races.

Hundreds of volunteers from the area are instrumental in the growth and achievements of the Bristol Chapter of SCC. Byrd knows their dedication and big hearts are key to the success of every Speedway Children's Charities event.

"You are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself," she said. "And we have the absolute best here with us. We are very fortunate to have so many compassionate and wonderful volunteers who are devoted to this cause. Our volunteers are the ones who make all of this possible. That allows us to try to help the wonderful agencies who work to meet the needs of these children."

Autotrader.com Speedway In Lights powered by TVA light show runs nightly from 6-10 p.m. through January 2. Tickets are available at the BMS gate. Ticket prices for cars are $10 Sunday through Thursday, and $12 Friday and Saturday. Activity van tickets are $15 each night and bus tickets are $65 each night.

For more information about Speedway In Lights and Speedway Children's Charities please call 423/989-6900.