THE BLOG
11/17/2014 09:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Helping Hands Ease the Way: My Personal Journey to Giving

It was two weeks before my senior year of high school when my brother at the age of 25, passed away from Leukemia. That day changed my life forever.

Until that day, I never experienced someone close dying. It was all very new and very confusing that he was actually gone and never coming back.

I had lost my brother and my best friend. In one day, just like that and the hard part was that life goes on, things keep moving, and at first it was very hard to figure all of that out as a teenager.

I struggled for many years and my brother's death left a void in my life. However, during that time, I watched my mom's faith in God never waiver. It was at that time in my life that her faith in God was passed on to me. I truly realized that every day is a gift from God and that I was going to make something good out of something tragic.

chris mcelwee

It was then, that I gained strength from my brother's passing. I determined I was never having a bad day again and could face any challenge compared to what my brother went through. He had a wife and two young children. He was working to support his family and raise his children while battling Leukemia but he never once complained.

It was then that I decided I was going to help others in his memory. My brother was always helping others; it was just his way...Michael's Way!

Shortly after my brother's death I was on a job site and met a young man who had a son with Leukemia. We started talking and I learned that he was really struggling financially from trying to care for his son. He had missed several days of work because of all the hospital visits and he was about to lose his home.

That was it. I thought, I can't imagine dealing with the emotional stress of having a child sick with cancer and in addition, facing losing your home, which you worked all your life to own.

That was the start of Michael's Way. After that day, I gathered close friends and business associates and asked them to help me with this cause. They all helped more than I could ever imagine and are still involved to this day. On that day in March, I realized that there is no greater gift than the gift of giving.

When we started down this road, we knew we wanted to help where the impact would be immediate. There are many charities that help by raising money for the cure, which is the number one goal. However, after doing a great deal of research we learned that there were not many charities focused on addressing the financial struggles that families face. Our mission is to help families get through their financial hurdles, so they can focus on getting their child well.

Being able to help so many families since then has been, and continues to be, truly humbling. I have been so blessed with this amazing opportunity and responsibility to help others. People have asked me over the years, if I feel special for what I am doing. I don't feel special for what I do, and the reason is, this is what we are supposed to do... help others. Help others in need. Help thy neighbor. Treat others like you would like to be treated. If you live your life this way, you will find rewards greater than you could ever imagine. Life is a gift. It is very easy to get caught up in everyday life and lose sight of what is important.

I am blessed to be able to keep my brother's memory alive by helping so many families with beautiful children suffering from cancer. I not only think my brother would approve, I think he would be proud.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The NASCAR Foundation, in conjunction with the latter's Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. HuffPost will feature a blog by each one of the four finalists on consecutive days, and each will appear on HuffPost Live that day. To see all the posts in the series, visit here. For more information about the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award -- and to vote for the winner -- visit here.