The Petty family – a NASCAR dynasty – is known for being fearless. So, it’s fitting that they created a summer camp that promises adventure.
Campers come from all over the country attend Victory Junction in Randleman, a facility that serves children with serious medical conditions. For five nights, kids can forget about cancer, diabetes, spina bifida and other issues.
This summer, the Observer’s Summer Camp Fund is sending two children to Victory Junction. They’re among more than 500 kids who will attend 33 camps thanks to donations from Observer readers and the community. Since 2009, the Observer’s Summer Camp Fund has raised more than $1.5 million and sent more than 3,000 children from the area to a variety of day and sleepaway camps.
“Nothing is off-limits here,” said Chad Coltrane, Victory Junction’s president and CEO. He’s including the 55-foot-tall adventure tower.
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That’s a thrill for campers, but possibly worrisome for the parents dropping them off.
Two years ago, a 10-year-old was spending her first night away from home. Her parents slept with a baby monitor in their room, because if their daughter has a seizure in the middle of the night, it could be life-threatening. The parents spent hours checking their daughter in.
“The parents were convinced we were going to call and tell them their daughter needed to come home,” Coltrane said. The call never came. When they returned last summer, the parents left after a more typical 30-minute check-in. They told Coltrane, "We’ve got a plane to catch. We’re going on a second honeymoon.”
Camp provides a needed respite for parents – and a boost for campers. “After camp I talked to people more, I started meeting new people and exploring new ideas and not being afraid to express myself,” said Bre’Asia Demery, 16, who will return to camp during sickle cell week this summer on an Observer scholarship.
Specialists are brought in for each week of camp to care for the campers, all of whom have the same condition.
For Kentrell Johnson, 13, being with other kids with sickle cell disease is the best part of camp, said Princess Patterson, his guardian. “Kentrell learned he can stay overnight and not be afraid... Victory Junction had a very positive impact in both our lives,” Patterson said.
Paris Taylor also likes what camp does for her 11-year-old daughter, Ramiya, another camper with sickle cell disease. “She comes back every year more and more independent,” Taylor said. “I think those counselors have magical skills.”
The magic is offered at no charge to families. Grants and donations allow the camp to operate on a no-fee policy.
The camp was built in memory of Adam Petty – Kyle’s son and Richard’s grandson – who was killed in a racing accident when he was 19. Adam, who often visited children in the hospital, had been planning a camp for sick kids before his death.
A disease or disability can place profound limitations on kids. Victory Junction allows them to see a life of possibility.