Printed from the Charlotte Observer -
Posted: Saturday, Jul. 28, 2012

Richardson’s foundation for success made at summer camp

By Caroline McMillan
Published in: Summer Camp Fund
  • Questions with Jerry

    Jerry Richardson answered questions from a group of Camp Thunderbird youth, ages 11 to 16:

    •  The Panthers’ 2012-13 season: “Well, we’ve got one player, Ryan Kalil, who says we’re going to the Super Bowl,” he said. (Kalil, a three-time Pro Bowl center, got national attention last week when he took out a full-page ad in the Observer declaring that the Panthers will win the Super Bowl.)

    •  Quarterback Cam Newton: “If he just keeps getting better and better, he’s going to be extraordinary.”

    •  Injured linebacker Thomas Davis: “He may be one of my favorite players on the team,” said Richardson. Davis, who has had three ACL injuries on the same knee, has vowed he’ll recover. “So far, no player has ever had three (ACL injuries) and come back to perform. But if anybody can do it, that man can. And he has exceptional manners.”

    •  The key to success: Using a legal pad, Richardson wrote five core values and showed them to the campers: hard work, harmony, teamwork, listen and respect. He used to walk into his Hardee’s restaurants and jot them on a paper napkin for his employees. Respect, he said, is most important. You could work for the Panthers without having a (perfect) 10 on the first four values, Richardson said. “But I have zero tolerance if you don’t show respect. That means respect for anybody – friends, vendors, family.”

  • Contributors to the Summer Camp Fund:

    Anonymous, $100

    Anonymous, in honor of a friend’s birthday, $50

    F.J. Armstead, $25

    Whitney Dahlinger, $75

    Dr. Freida F. Brown, $100

    Sarah S. Tull, $100

    John Morgan, $25

    Martha Hunt, $100

    Rannella May, $10

    Kristin del Rosso, $10

    Kenneth Leonczyk, $50

  • Want to help?

    Donors contributed more than $77,000 in 2011, and the Summer Camp Fund has raised $72,000 so far this year. Donate online at Click on the “Donate” button to contribute via PayPal. Or send donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269.

    If you wish to make an anonymous donation, indicate it on the “for” line of the check. If you donate via PayPal and wish to be anonymous, email

  • Camp Thunderbird

    Thunderbird is a lakeside, co-ed residential and day camp about 17 miles south of uptown, hugging the N.C.-S.C. state line.

    The camp was founded in 1936 by Curtis B. Johnson, then-owner and publisher of The Charlotte Observer.

    He named it the Observer Fresh Air Camp.

    The goal was to introduce under-privileged Charlotte boys to the outdoors, where they could develop new skills. Soon after the end of World War II, camp operations had grown so large that Johnson felt it needed professional management.

    He gave the Charlotte YMCA rights to the camp in 1946. Now 100 acres, the camp serves several thousand children a year and offers nearly 300 scholarships.

    Since the Summer Camp Fund was founded in 2009, it has awarded Thunderbird about $40,000 – enough to send nearly 50 kids to camp for a week.

  • Related Images

    Carolina Panthers majority owner Jerry Richardson spent a muggy morning one day last week at the YMCA’s Camp Thunderbird, chatting with starstruck campers about his camp days, keys to success and the upcoming football season.

    Wearing athletic shoes, khaki pants and a white golf shirt with a Panthers logo, Richardson toured the sprawling camp grounds on Lake Wylie in a golf cart.

    First stop was the flag football field.

    “What’s your name?” Richardson asked, while shaking hands with the 15 boys and girls who crowded around him.

    “Good to meet you,” he replied, addressing each youth by name.

    “That’s a nice handshake. I like that,” Richardson told a boy in a University of South Carolina Gamecocks hat.

    A former wide receiver for the Baltimore Colts, co-founder of fast-food giant Hardee’s and linchpin in the recent National Football League labor negotiations, Richardson also is this year’s honorary chairman of the Observer’s Summer Camp Fund.

    The fund raises money to send children from low-income families to day and overnight camps.

    Richardson, a former camper who advanced to counselor, attributes much of his success to the life skills and values he learned at summer camp – ones he still lives by today.

    “I’m not aware of anything ... that’s more helpful to a young person than going to a camp,” Richardson told the Observer this summer. “There comes a time when you graduate from high school and you leave home and go to work ... or college. You have to get along with people, building relationships. ...Camping, for me, was one of the first environments that really exposed me to that.”

    Pranks, ‘prized possessions’

    Richardson was born in Spring Hope and grew up in Fayetteville. His father was a barber and his mother worked at a ladies clothing store.

    He attended Camp Seagull on the coast near New Bern the first year it opened in 1948. His parents sacrificed to afford the costs every summer.

    Richardson enjoyed boating, sailing, water-skiing – “anything near the water,” he says.

    He also reveled in the occasional prank.

    “You guys ever heard of a clothespin?” Richardson joked with the campers. “Don’t know if they even make them anymore, but when I was at camp, they were prized possessions.”

    They used them to hang their bathing suits on the clothes lines to dry, he explained. One night, Richardson sneaked out of his cabin to steal all the clothespins.

    “Even then, I was tall,” said Richardson, who stands 6-foot-3. That made it easy for the awakened counselors to spot him.

    Richardson took off.

    “I was running across the campus, and they were screaming and hollering...with flashlights,” he recalls. “Fortunately, I was running faster than them.”

    And then...bam! His feet were airborne and he fell to the ground.

    Richardson laughs. “I hit a clothesline.”

    McMillan: 704-358-6045

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