Growing up, Army Staff Sergeant Fabian Hall could always be found in the kitchen with his grandmother. After learning family recipes and many culinary skills, he will now have the opportunity to put his talents on display this weekend. Hall was surprised Thursday evening outside a Kroger grocery store in Ft. Worth, Texas, by the driver of the famed No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, Aric Almirola. Stepping out of his race car at the store, Almirola handed Hall an Eckrich grilling set and asked if he could help grill for the race team and owner, "The King" Richard Petty, during this weekend's race activities.
Almirola and sponsor Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, made the surprise visit as part of their partnership with Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of United States service members and wounded warriors. The event was the first of many this summer that Eckrich will host through its Operation Inspiration campaign that supports and honors military veterans and their families.
For Hall, who has served two tours in Iraq, this weekend is a way for Eckrich and Operation Homefront to honor and thank him and his family for all their sacrifice. Hall's service overseas came to a sudden stop when he was diagnosed with cancer. After returning home, Operation Homefront assisted Hall and his two sons by providing them with a place to live at the Operation Homefront Village in San Antonio, Texas. Today, Hall's cancer is in remission and he can now build upon his army career as a cook as a culinary arts student.
Eckrich is now giving Hall, a NASCAR fan, an opportunity to test his grilling skills this weekend as he prepares Eckrich sausage-inspired meals for the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team Friday and Saturday at the Texas Motor Speedway. Prepared with a new grilling set, an authentic Eckrich crew shirt and hat, Hall will help the team prepare a lunch and dinner. Saturday, Hall will also prepare a meal for Richard Petty, who race fans know as "The King." Afterwards, Hall will be treated like a king as he will receive VIP treatment for Saturday night's race.
"I thought the race weekend was starting a little bit early when I saw the No. 43 come racing around the parking lot," commented Hall after his surprise Thursday evening. "I really didn't know what was happening, but then Aric (Almirola) came out of the car and said I could come and cook for the race team this weekend. I just can't believe it. I'm still a bit shocked about everything that is happening, but it's really cool. I can't wait to cook for the race team this weekend."
Almirola, in his second year working with Eckrich and Operation Homefront, knows about the sacrifice of our military servicemen and women and their families. Born on an Air Force base, Almirola has military roots. He is also a new father and understands the importance of family.
"This is really cool to honor our military veterans and their families," said Almirola. "All of our military veterans are heroes, but when you hear a story like Fabian's, who is a single father and who has survived cancer, it makes it even better to give back. We're going to make sure he has a good time with the crew this weekend."
Eckrich will also donate up to $250,000 to Operation Homefront this year through the contribution of five cents from each purchase of specially marked products from May 1 through July 4.
"As we continue our partnerships with Richard Petty Motorsports and Operation Homefront, it remains important for us to honor our military veterans and their families," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "Fabian and his family have sacrificed immensely, but with the help of Operation Homefront they have been able to overcome great obstacles. We now want to honor Fabian by giving him an experience that hopefully he will never forget."