Tom Hessert, a Cherry Hill, N.J., native who has been an ARCA driver for six years, and Korbin Forrister, a Cedartown, Ga., native currently in his second year of ARCA racing, started their tour in the Warren Museum at Manning Hall.
Forrister’s parents, Ken and Karen Forrister, accompanied the two drivers during the tour.
The second stop featured a visit to the library at Baynes Hall to interact with pre-kindergarten students from the Alabama School for the Deaf.
Hessert and Forrister passed out candy while the teachers interpreted for the students, who asked questions ranging from, “How fast do you drive?” to “What color is your race car?” in American Sign Language.
“They’re just like any other kids,” Forrister said. “It fascinates me how quick they’re able to pick up sign language and learn to communicate with others.”
Following the library trip, Aziza Jackson, the institute’s media and communications specialist, drove the group to the Alabama School for the Blind, pointing out Hawkins Chapel and the Talladega Regional Center along the way.
When the group entered the gym at ASB, they were met by the sound of children scurrying around the room playing a variation of musical chairs using hula-hoops.
The children smiled and laughed while talking with the drivers. One of the children eagerly requested that Forrister come into the adjacent gym to watch him do laps around the basketball court on a tricycle.
The tour continued with a walkthrough of the Alabama Industries for the Blind Store, where office supplies made by blind employees are sold. The group proceeded to the AIB work area where visually impaired employees assembled a variety of products, including military uniform ties and joint-service light integrated suit technology overgarment storage bags.
Forrister’s parents said they were impressed by the workers and were unaware of just how much impact they had in the workforce.
The tour ended with a visit to the Helen Keller School of Alabama. Jackson pointed out the buildings and explained the function of each to the group.
Hessert, who won Saturday’s Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 in Salem, Ind., called the experience humbling and raved about the facilities at the institute.
“It’s a very impressive facility and I think it’s all pretty interesting there’s a place for those kids and adults who have impairments to be able to interact with one another and be on equal ground,” Hessert said. “The coolest thing for me was when we walked into the pre-kindergarten room. All those kids were having fun, and I was the one who was unsure of what I was supposed to do. They were very comfortable in their own environment and I was the one who was on the outside of it. It was kind of neat.”
ARCA drivers are in town for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 250, which will begin at 4 p.m. today at Talladega Superspeedway.
Contact Shane Dunaway at email@example.com.