The Dale Earnhardt Foundation has awarded a $2 million gift to the Girl Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council in support of the development of the Council’s 700-acre Oak Springs property, which serves as a retreat for Girl Scouts and their leaders from throughout an eight-county Carolinas region.
In recognition of the gift, which is the largest ever granted by the foundation and the largest single gift ever received by the Hornets’ Nest Council, the campus at Oak Springs will be named the Dale Earnhardt Environmental Leadership Campus in honor of the legendary NASCAR driver.
The foundation’s grant will be used to help fund the ongoing development of the Oak Springs property, including a 25-acre lake under construction. The Girl Scouts retreat, which is located in Iredell County, features heavy forestation, diverse wildlife, broad open areas, natural water sources and rolling terrain. The property includes the former site of a skeet shooting range that was a long-time favorite of Mr. Earnhardt’s.
“Dale was an avid sportsman and outdoorsman; whether it was spending time at the Earnhardt Farm or traveling across the country on a hunt, he loved outdoor adventure,” said Teresa Earnhardt, Executive Director of the Dale Earnhardt Foundation.
“We are proud to put Dale’s name on a campus like this with its beautiful wooded environment, wildlife native to the area and such a strong program teaching young people the importance of respecting nature.
“We cannot imagine a more worthy cause for our largest grant to-date which is coming in the 10th anniversary year of our foundation,” she said.
The Dale Earnhardt Foundation was created in 2002 with a goal to “CONTINUE THE LEGEND” of Mr. Earnhardt, who won the NASCAR Winston Cup Championship seven times and who was elected to the inaugural induction class at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. During his storied career, he garnered a world-wide following of legions of fans who continue today to revere his contributions to the sport of racing. The Foundation’s primary philanthropic focus is on children, education and wildlife/environmental preservation.
“All aspects of our mission will be part of the Dale Earnhardt Environmental Leadership Campus for generations to come,” Teresa Earnhardt said. “The activities there will enable our children to make informed choices, teach them to care deeply about our environment and prepare them to be good stewards.”
The Hornets’ Nest Council acquired the property in Iredell County in 2007, consolidating activities that had previously taken place at three other sites. The Council is implementing a long-range development program for the campus that has so far included infrastructure improvements, challenge courses, nature trails, archery range and Girl Scout villages that feature camping areas and cabins.
“This gift from The Dale Earnhardt Foundation is truly transformational for the almost 17,000 girls in our footprint and our Oak Springs property,” said Sally Daley, CEO of the Council. “These funds will assure that we can continue to successfully pursue our development program, including the construction of our lake that will be the focal point of activities for Girl Scouts of all ages.
“The mission of the Dale Earnhardt Foundation and the goals of Hornets’ Nest Council align ideally, which makes this signature gift all the more meaningful for our Girl Scouts and leadership volunteers,” Daley continued. “We know that the many loyal fans of Mr. Earnhardt will be pleased to see how we are preserving the heritage of his career and interests outside of racing.”
The Girl Scouts property is serving a central role in the mission of Hornets’ Nest Council, offering girls a diversity of learning, outdoor experiential and leadership development opportunities. Several individual Girl Scout projects have been completed on the site, including an outdoor amphitheater surrounding the original homestead on the property and support area and shelter for the advanced challenge course.
The vast majority of the property will remain in natural forestation, in partnership with the Catawba Lands Conservancy, seamlessly integrating hiking trails, challenge courses, camp sites, cabins and an environmental education center. All development is taking place in an environmentally sensitive manner; for example, trees removed for the lake site are serving as materials for mulching natural areas at the site and repurposing into particle board.
The campus will also incorporate activities along the South Yadkin River, which runs adjacent to the property, along with a portion of the Carolina Thread Trail, a multi-county series of greenways and trails. In addition to programs for Girl Scouts, the campusserves as a community resource, providing opportunities for businesses and non-profit organizations to schedule events at the camp when not in use by Girl Scouts.