Mary Hagerty-Ehrsam runs our HOPE Global Youth Empowerment Group for the organization I founded, Operation HOPE, but I don’t think Mary had any clue what was in store for her when she arrived with me at the Zwartkops Raceway in South Africa with me last week.

What she ‘thought’ she knew, was that I needed a sanity break.  I and we were at the end of an extremely busy and intense week of meetings, speeches, strategy sessions and engagements in South Africa, and I needed a chance to breath.  For me, a day on the track in South Africa was the answer.

What she ‘thought’ she knew was that she was attending only as a guest, a spectator, a support base for me, her boss.  This is what she ‘thought’ she knew.

I knew that Mary was super-dedicated to the work we do at Operation HOPE, which also means she was super-focused on making progress and advancing the mission of Operation HOPE around the clock — in country and while away from the states.  She needed a breather too, but I was sure she didn’t see herself getting one on a race track that day. ‘That was for John Hope Bryant,‘ she would likely say.

Mary showed up at the track in a traditional business suit and heels, prepared to watch me drive, and to work on the sidelines.  And then — she saw her name and a driving suit set up, just for her.  Initially, Mary said ‘no thanks,’ but after an escorted drive around the track – I think it is fair to say she was now genuinely curious.


Well, one experience behind the wheel was literally all it took. Mary was officially hooked, and went on to drive both a Lotus and a Reynard Formula 4 race car.

The bonus for Mary — her outer confidence and her inner calm just soared as a result of overcoming a fear, and mastering the basic race driving experience on the track.

By doing something that a fraction of 1% of the population has ever done (drive a race car on a race track), Mary knew she had joined an exclusive club. She also was acutely aware that it was her alone, in that race car cockpit, and she did it, she accomplished this — on her own.


Check out a full Flickr album of photos of Mary driving here.

This is HOPE Team Building that goes well beyond building confidence for the job.  This is about investing in the person.  An organization, after all, is made up of great, empowered people.

Mary is a different person after this experience, and that’s good all around.  Proud of her.

A special thank you to Fantastic Racing CEO Mark Lauth, and his right hand Jannet Wood for making this happen.

John Hope Bryant



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