Helping chronically ill children enjoy the summer camp experience | MomsCharlotte.com

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Michelle Lloyd is a freelance writer and contributor to MomsCharlotte.com.

Helping chronically ill children enjoy the summer camp experience

07/09/13 10:46

Brooke Mitchell Hondros, 41 of Cornelius, is the Director of Development at a local camp for seriously ill children. During her time with Victory Junction, Brooke has headed a $1 million dollar project, as well handling all fundraising via events, corporate relationships/cause related marketing, individual gifts, foundation gifts, and grant writing. She also oversees all stewardship efforts, marketing and PR, and database management. Keep reading to learn more about Brooke and this amazing organization!

Q. How did you get started with Victory Junction?

A. I worked in the NASCAR industry from 1995 – 2007. I Knew the Petty family and knew Adam Petty whom Victory Junction was built in memory of, so it was easy to be passionate about the camp. The project noted above was my first direct effort to help Victory Junction and was part of assisting with the camp's capital campaign initiated by NASCAR driver and team owner, Michael Waltrip. I worked with and for Michael from October 2000 - 2011 in various capacities.

Q. What exactly is Victory Junction?

A. Victory Junction is a summer camp for seriously ill children only ninety minutes from Charlotte, NC and is a member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network of Camps founded by Paul Newman, and accredited by the rigorous guidelines of the American Camping Association.

Q. Who do they serve and what types of camps do they provide?

A. Victory Junction is a year-round camping facility that serves children ages six - 16 with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. Located in Randleman, NC, the camp sits on 84 acres of land with approximately 40 buildings to provide campers with life-changing experiences. Serving over 24 different types of illnesses, Victory Junction provides week long camping sessions for up to 128 campers per-week over the summer.

Q. What are some things that happen at Victory Junction?

A. There are four, one-hour and 15 minute rotations or “turns” each day. Campers spend time in the various program areas where they create inspiring moments of independence while achieving milestones they never dreamt possible in a fully inclusive recreational environment. The abundance of innovative and accessible program areas give the campers a chance to exercise, participate, and succeed in activities that otherwise might be too challenging in their daily lives. Assistance from encouraging counselors and cabin mates allowed for the following first-time experiences during 2011 Summer Camp:

A little girl suffering from Sickle Cell Anemia, whose body temperature cannot change more than two degrees, swam in the waterpark’s lazy river, then mustered up enough courage to enjoy the waterslide.

A child with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), unable to walk or crawl, rode a horse in the outdoor riding ring and shot “almost bull’s-eyes” at the Archery Center.

A young burn victim, who clearly shies away from bringing attention to himself, was the

highlight of “Stage Day” in the camp talent show in the 200-seat theater.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia may have been the diagnosis of this 7-year old boy, but no sign of cancer was shown when he climbed the 55-foot Adventure Tower or when he targeted his counselor during a friendly game of kickball in camp’s Superdome.

A child with Spina Bifida, who has to rely on a wheelchair, strapped into the Zip Line and soared through air discovering a thrill she said “was even better than the hot air balloon ride last

Q. Who runs the camps? Are nurses/doctors present?

A. Victory Junction’s state of the art medical facility is staffed by caring pediatric and disease-specific professionals educated to each camper’s unique healthcare needs.

Q. How many children have gone to Victory Junction camps?

A. By the end of 2013 we will have seen 20,000 children and family members since the gates opened in June of 2004. (VJ will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2014)

Q. Can members of our community help in any way?

A. There are many ways to help….Consider your resources and think about who you know that could benefit by coming to camp and share this information. Also consider what businesses or individuals you know that financially support children’s charities and tell them about VJ. Attend or support events - Holiday Gala (attatched) held in Charlotte at The Fillmore is an event for the entire family, happens the second week of December annually, Run/support Run to Victory www.runtovictory.org, a ½ marathon/5K at Victory Junction, create your own event with proceeds going to Victory Junction, tell families with chronically ill children about VJ, come for a tour and see for yourself the amazing facility and learn at a deeper level how empowering a child feels by attending camp.

Q. How has working with Victory Junction inspired your own children?

A. It has opened their eyes and their hearts. Watching them play kickball with a group of physically disabled children at Victory Junction for the first time was incredible. As a parent, you cringe just waiting for your child to innocently ask a question out loud that might seem insensitive…that was exactly what I was waiting for as my kids walked into the Kurt Busch Superdome (which resembles an indoor baseball facility) during an Open House on a Saturday afternoon… but it never happened. They hopped right onto the ‘field,’ asked a nine-year old boy named Jack if they could play. Jack directed my second grader to push his wheelchair so they would be faster and my pre-K child was told to try to hit them with the ball! 45 minutes later, my boys came off the field sweating and begging not to leave. The same type of trust and commradery happened at the archery range, and again at Adam’s Race Shop where the kids did pit stops and played with remote controlled cars. It wasn’t until we got in the car that John Peter (7 yrs old at the time) asked any questions about Jack. “Mom, Jack is really fun. Do you think he will always need a wheelchair because he would be a great baseball player, he is really strong!” My own kids inspired me at that moment because they saw Jack’s strengths, not his weakness, which is EXACTLY what Victory Junction is about!

Q. What projects have Kids 4 Kids done?

A. Unfortunately, only the project from last Christmas. The six moms that created this group are all working moms and desire for our children and their friends to get involved in community projects. We will do something else because the response and outreach by other families has been overwhelming, but nothing is on the calendar at the moment.

Q. What have the kids learned from Kids 4 Kids?

A. Our goal wasn’t to hand kids money to do something good. The goal was that the kids had to work for it and make those uncomfortable asks for support in order to make someone else’s life better. We accomplished our goal and I think it really resonated with the children. My children now say, “Can we do a lemonade stand so that Jack can go to camp again?”… they get it… I hope! :)

You can find more information about Victory Junction online at victoryjunction.org – 4500 Adam’s Way, Randleman, NC 27317, 336-498-9055

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