Oct. 24 will mark a decade since Cathy Hendrick lost her husband, then the president of Hendrick Motorsports, along with their twin 22-year-old daughters, in a plane crash that claimed several other company colleagues.
The widow will visit Chapel By The Sea Baptist Church in North Myrtle Beach’s Cherry Grove Beach community at 11 a.m. Sunday to speak about “Faith In The Midst Of Tragedy,” with vocal music by Lisa Ann Hammond, local Christian recording artist and songwriter.
The Hendrick team – fielding four Chevrolet drivers in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series drivers – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne – was founded in 1984 by owner Rick Hendrick, whose 24-year-old son, Ricky Hendrick, also perished in the plane crash.
In memory of husband John and daughters Jennifer and Kimberly, Cathy Hendrick keeps driving home her message about how her foundation in faith keeps her going to make every difference she can. She also estimated that she makes about 60 speaking engagements per year across the country.
Question | How has time and this opening up your heart to audiences been healing for you through the years?
Answer | I’ve gone from crying, and that’s been healing. Sometimes I get a moment and have to pause, but it’s been wonderful to see how it touched people’s lives and people rededicate their lives to Jesus.
Q. | Coming from the Charlotte area for trips to Myrtle Beach, while memories here make you smile ahead of your speaking engagement Jan. 19?
A. | As a family, we used to go there quite often in the summer, when the girls were younger; they loved the beach. We made a lot of memories there.
Q. | Does each setting for your addresses vary?
A. | My message is the same at every church, and I might alter it at the church depending on the audience. I also have spoken at high schools, and I try to have more flexibility with them.
You’re not promised tomorrow, and you must get your life right for the Lord today. ... Take a walk through a cemetery and look at the ages; they go from infants to elderly. We have to always be ready.
Q. | Have any new feelings emerged as you approach 10 years this fall since your loss?
A. | A friend, Jan Jackson, whose husband, Joe Jackson, worked for DuPont, died in the plane crash, will have an event in Charlotte that’s all about adopting kids. It’s a fundraiser for the Abba Fund ( www.abbafund.org). ... It’s to help people who want, but can’t afford, to adopt children. So we’re doing that, and every year, I have scholarships annually at Charlotte Christian School in memory of Jennifer and Kimberly. We give one female and one male student their full tuition paid for the year; we have done that annually since the plane crash. I also make a donation the photography school I went to in Asheboro ... at Randolph Community College.
Q. | What trends and changes have you observed on the NASCAR circuit?
A. | It’s a lot more competitive now, I think. The drivers are a lot younger. You used to have really dominating racers, but now, it’s so competitive, there’s no way to even begin to guess who will win.
Q. | What goals might this new year bring for you?
A. | I completed a big goal last year when Jimmy Johnson won in Martinsville. I was at that race; it meant a lot to me. I was supposed to go to the first race in the first-year anniversary, but couldn’t. I just couldn’t leave my home. I let all these years pass. ... I always wanted to finish what my husband and the twins have started. Jimmy won the race that day. ... If I don’t ever go back to Martinsville, I’m satisfied.
Those Hendrick Motorsports drivers there, of course, they gave it their all, and they give it their all in every race. I talked with them in pit row before the race. ... They knew the day’s meaning for me, and they knew how important it was to get in the victory lane. ...
I go back and visit the area where the plane went down. I went there in fall of 2013. We have a cross up there.
Q. | How touching is knowing that racing fans are riding with you with their care?
A. | We have a lot of support and a lot of prayers all over the country. ... Family and friends have been very supportive through a heart-wrenching time.
Q. | Any different feelings about this visit to the Grand Strand?
A. | I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t spoken in Myrtle Beach, so this is a first for me. I try to share glory to God everywhere I go; it’s all about Him. Particularly in this world now, it’s important to know that no matter what something bad hits people’s lives, He goes through it with them. He’s faithful, and you can trust Him. You are very important to Him. Always trust Him; even when we don’t understand, that’s what trust is.