A $250,000 sponsorship agreement with Hendrick Automotive Group will allow Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to offer a complete program of middle school sports for the 2011-12 academic year. Due to budget cuts, CMS had expected to reduce the number of middle school sports offered in previous years. The Hendrick sponsorship, combined with a contribution from an unidentified donor, provides the remaining amount necessary to fund the full lineup of 13 sports at all 32 middle schools for more than 6,500 students participating in athletics across the district. “We believe that sports play a crucial role in students’ education and development,” said CMS interim superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh. “Hendrick Automotive Group’s generous support is a great example of how the support of local businesses can make an enormous difference in the lives of children.” The sponsorship agreement designates HendrickCars.com as an official sponsor of CMS athletics, which offers opportunities for more than 16,000 middle and high school students. The agreement gives the company naming rights of statistics announced during breaks at high school athletic events; recognition as a title partner in announcements at the end of high school events; and signage that will be displayed at middle and high school athletic events. CMS and Hendrick Automotive Group will explore options for additional promotions, and the arrangement will not change any existing partnership agreements between individual schools’ booster clubs and other organizations. CMS will use the sponsorship money to help pay coaching stipends, fees for officials and transportation costs for middle school athletics. Students must still pay some sports-participation fees, introduced by CMS for all middle and high school student-athletes last year. “As someone who participated in sports growing up and has kids who played, I understand the impact those experiences can have on young people,” said Rick Hendrick, chairman of Hendrick Automotive Group. “The lessons athletics teaches – teamwork, communication, leadership, dedication – are valuable, and they’re carried forward into life and business. We feel this sponsorship fits with our company values, and we’re proud to be associated with everyone who makes it possible for these student-athletes to be successful.” Hendrick Automotive Group, headquartered in Charlotte, is one of the nation’s largest retail automotive operations. The company employs about 7,000 people at more than 100 franchises in 12 states, including 12 dealerships in the Charlotte area.