Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ride to raise funds for Victory Junction Gang Camp

NASCAR driver Kyle Petty (left) and wife, Pattie (right), meet a child at their Victory Junction Gang Camp for chronically ill children in Randleman, N.C. The Pettys plan to open a second camp in Wyandotte County that will allow children to ride horses, swim and canoe despite having serious illnesses.

NASCAR driver Kyle Petty (left) and wife, Pattie (right), meet a child at their Victory Junction Gang Camp for chronically ill children in Randleman, N.C. The Pettys plan to open a second camp in Wyandotte County that will allow children to ride horses, swim and canoe despite having serious illnesses.

July 10, 2008

Even though a location hasn't yet been chosen and feasibility studies are ongoing, NASCAR driver Kyle Petty isn't slowing down his plans to bring a Victory Junction Gang Camp to the Wyandotte County area.

Petty will kick off his 14th annual Charity Ride to raise funds for families who have children suffering with chronic or life-threatening illnesses, as well as funds to bring to life his goal of opening a second camp.

In 2004, Petty and his wife, Pattie, opened the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C., which has now provided more than 7,000 children the opportunity to participate in activities such as horseback riding, swimming and canoeing. The camp was in honor of son Adam Petty, a driver who was killed in a 2000 crash.

"Everything at a regular camp takes place at the Victory Junction camps," Petty said. "The only difference is that it's in a medically safe environment."

About 200 motorcyclists will leave from Traverse City, Mich., on July 13, and will ride the 3,000-mile trek to Savannah, Ga., making stops at children's hospitals along the way. Over the years, the Charity Ride fundraiser has brought in more than $10.5 million. Last year the ride raised $1.5 million, which Petty said was the group's biggest earnings to date.

In addition to the amount each motorcyclist pays to participate and the ride's corporate sponsors, Petty raises funds with the "Small change, big impact" jar that rides in a sidecar on one of the motorcycles. Along the way, riders ask people to empty the change in their pockets as a donation. Last year, the "Small change, big impact," brought in $55,000 of the total amount raised.

Petty hopes to put 30 to 40 percent of the ride's earnings this year toward the new camp in Kansas City, Kan. The exact amount will depend on how much is given to families to pay for medical bills along the ride's stops at children's hospitals. However, Petty said he hoped the Charity Ride became a big supporter of bringing the Kansas City camp to fruition.

The idea to open a Victory Junction Gang Camp in the Kansas City area came from the involvement of the NASCAR community, Petty said. Fellow drivers such as Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards were instrumental, Petty said, to the growth of the original camp. Fans of those drivers with sick children from all over the United States started showing up at the yearlong camp.

Because the camp is offered free to the families, Petty said it started getting expensive flying all of the children to North Carolina from west of the Mississippi River. Petty said he wanted to make sure as many children as possible in the country were getting the same experience, which brought up the idea of creating a second, more central, camp location.

By the end of the year, Petty said he hoped to have made an announcement about the final location of the Kansas City camp. He said he currently has architects working on plans, but there are still many issues to resolve before construction can begin.

He said he doesn't know if the camp will be built all at once, like the one in Randleman, N.C., or if it will be built in phases starting with overnight cabins, a cafeteria and hospital. The North Carolina camp took 22 months to build, so Petty said expected it to be a similar timeline in Kansas.

"We looked at many communities in the Midwest," Petty said. "The Kansas City area just stuck out. People seemed caring and willing to give back. They embraced the race track (Kansas Speedway), so this is the perfect area."

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