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Aric Almirola surprises Army family with shopping spree, VIP treatment at Texas

Apr 4, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT

Aric Almirola with Sgt. Ralph Harroff and family in Ft. Worth, Texas on Friday. (Photo: Brad Schloss) Aric Almirola with Sgt. Ralph Harroff and family in Ft. Worth, Texas on Friday. (Photo: Brad Schloss)

It’s not every day you run into a NASCAR driver at the grocery store, and then he surprises your family with an all-expenses paid shopping spree.

That’s what happened Friday morning as Army Sergeant Ralph Harroff and his family were preparing to go shopping at their local Kroger store in Fort Worth, Texas.

All of a sudden, Richard Petty Motorsports Sprint Cup driver Aric Almirola raced through the parking lot, jumped out of the famed No. 43, and made a beeline to the startled Harroff family.

From there, Almirola escorted the Harroff’s to the meats aisle, where a special grill cooking smoked sausage was waiting.

Almirola then loaded a number of Eckrich products into a shopping cart, and then accompanied the Harroff’s throughout the store for more food essentials.

Not only did Eckrich foot the bill, along with another $430 in Kroger gift cards for future shopping use, Almirola presented the family with authentic racing crew uniforms and invited them to be his special guests at Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

The family will watch the race from atop the RPM pit box.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Sgt. Harroff, who was injured in action in Afghanistan in 2009 and endured a long recovery that was trying on both himself and his family. “It’s something that I’ll never forget. … To have Eckrich and Aric Almirola give us a shopping spree for my family, and to invite us to be a part of the race team this weekend, it means a lot. There are so many deserving military families, I just feel lucky to be honored like this.”

The promotion was park of Eckrich’s “Operation Inspiration” program that supports and honors military families.

“This is really what ‘Operation Inspiration’ is all about,” said Charles Gitkin, vice president for the John Morrell Food Group. “We heard the story of Army Sgt. Ralph Harroff and his family. It’s families like these that inspire us to honor and assist them, and give them an experience they will never forget.”

Added Almirola, “This is a family that I can really relate with. Growing up in a military family, and now being a father myself, I can understand the sacrifices the Harroff family has made. It makes me feel good that I can work with Eckrich to help honor and give back to military families. I know we put a smile on their faces today.”

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