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Gwendolyn Strong Foundation Selected for Helmet of Hope Campaign

The local organization will receive a $10,000 grant, and its logo will adorn the helmet of NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson during the Pepsi 400

The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of spinal muscular atrophy — the No. 1 genetic killer of young children — and accelerating cure-focused SMA research, was selected by four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and the Jimmie Johnson Foundation as one of the children’s charities for its 2010 Samsung Helmet of Hope campaign.

For that honor, the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation will receive a $10,000 grant from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, and GSF’s logo will grace Johnson’s racing helmet for the prestigious NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event — the Pepsi 400 — at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Oct. 10.

In its third year, the Samsung Helmet of Hope program is a partnership of the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, Samsung and Lowe’s. Fans and media members across the country nominate their favorite children’s charities for a chance to be featured on Johnson’s helmet for a select race.

New this year, selected charities are also receiving a grant of $10,000. This partnership is part of the Samsung Hope for Children program, a corporate giving program that aligns athletes and retail partners to help children learn, live and thrive.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be honored as a Helmet of Hope charity,” said Bill Strong, co-founder of the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. “Although not a household name, SMA kills more young children than any other inherited disease, and the Helmet of Hope selection provides an incredible opportunity to raise much-needed awareness of SMA, its brutal reality and the enormous hope for groundbreaking research that could end this cruel disease for good.”

SMA is a terminal, degenerative genetic disease that impacts the voluntary muscles in infants and children, including the ability to walk, sit, stand, eat, breathe and even swallow, while cognitive ability is never affected. Ninety percent of children born with SMA die before age 2. One in every 40 people, or nearly 8 million Americans, unknowingly carries the gene responsible for SMA. There is no treatment or cure, and although SMA research is underfunded, it is extremely advanced. The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation is focused on helping ensure resources are not the obstacle in attaining that cure.

To further its mission, the entire $10,000 grant from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation will be going toward GSF’s ”$200K For SMA” fundraising campaign.

The campaign is a collaboration between GSF and Fight SMA, a leading national SMA organization, to direct necessary funds to propel the SMA gene therapy research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University toward human clinical trials.

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