By Chelsea Karnash
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Since 2002, Chris McElwee's charity has been helping Philadelphia area families of children who have cancer.
But if he wins The NASCAR Foundation's 2014 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, his organization will be able to do even more.
Michael's Way, a nonprofit established 12 years ago by Chris in memory of his brother Michael, who died at 25 from leukemia, is up for the prestigious $100,000 prize. To win, the charity needs to receive the highest number of votes online.
"[Michael] was not only my brother; he was my best friend. His loss left a major void in my life," Chris explains. "We started Michael's Way as a way to honor him and to fill that void, and also make something good from something bad."
Three other charities are in the running for the award, but Chris says Michael's Way stands out because 100% of the donations received go directly to cancer patients and their families.
"One of the things we are most proud of as a charity is that we have no overhead expenses," Chris says.
Michael's Way helps pay the costs of caring for kids with the disease, such as rent or mortgage bills, utilities, food and transportation -- costs that can quickly add up. According to the Michael's Way website, non-medical out-of-pocket expenses associated with providing treatment for a child with cancer average about 38% of a family's gross annual income.
So far, Chris' charity has distributed more than $6 million to families in the Philadelphia area, but his commitment to kids doesn't stop there. He pushed for a partnership between Michael's Way and Flyers Charities that resulted in "Building Hope for Kids," which has worked to renovate the homes of kids with cancer. He's also co-founder and co-chair of the Philadelphia Flyers Celebrity Golf Invitational, and Vice Chairman of the Snider Hockey Foundation Board of Directors.
This year, Chris hopes to win the NASCAR prize, which he says could help so many more families in need.
So, what would Michael say if he could see the good being done to honor his memory?
"I think he would approve, and I hope he would be proud," Chris says. "He was always helping others; it was just his way.....Michael's Way!"
Voting runs until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 4th, 2014, and the winner will be announced the following day in Las Vegas during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards.
To vote for Michael's Way, visit: www.nascar.com/award.
For more on Michael's Way, visit: www.michaelsway.org.
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