Celebrating the memory of Adam Petty, stock car racing's first family has opened a summer camp that mixes the high-octane allure of NASCAR with the rainbow wonders of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
|Montgomery Lee Petty, 14, leans on her grandfather, racing great Richard Petty, as she listens to her dad Kyle Petty, not shown, announce that the Petty family is founding The Victory Junction Gang Camp during a news conference at the North Carolina Speedway near Rockingham, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2000. The camp will serve as a retreat for seriously ill children and will be in honor of Montgomery's brother Adam Petty, who was killed in a racing accident in May. (AP Photo/Erik Perel)|
Bright colors decorate attractions such as Jessie's Horsepower Garage, a petting zoo with pens for horses, goats and donkeys. There's a chandelier shaped like an engine and rows of race car hoods decorate the ceiling of a theater at the Victory Junction camp. Pictures of the Pettys and other racers decorate some of the walls.
Next week, the camp is to welcome about 60 children from the Carolinas and Virginia who suffer from chronic or life-threatening illnesses. The facility is dedicated to the memory of Adam Petty, the grandson of Richard Petty - known as ``The King'' in NASCAR circles - and the son of current driver Kyle Petty.
|One of the treatment rooms in the "Goody's Body Shop" is shown during the opening of the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C., Tuesday June 15, 2004. Celebrating the memory of Adam Petty, who died on the track four years ago, the Petty family opened a summer camp for sick children Tuesday that mixes the high-octane allure of NASCAR with the rainbow wonders of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)|
Adam Petty was 19 when he died while running practice laps in 2000 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
``We don't know what this is going to hold, just as we didn't know what kind of success Adam Petty was going to have on the race track,'' former Winston Cup champion Benny Parsons said. ``But this looks like it's going to be an unbelievable thing. And what a great tribute to the family, something like this.''
Among those touring the camp were Tony Stewart, the 2002 Cup champ, and Kevin Harvick.
Kyle Petty is looking forward to the arrival of the first campers.
``I'm really excited to be done with it and be able to see the kids,'' he said. ``Sometimes you get caught up in the buildings or how spectacular they are, or the work everybody puts in. But when it's all said and done, it's about changing lives for these kids.''
|People tour part of the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, N.C., Tuesday June 15, 2004. Celebrating the memory of Adam Petty, who died on the track four years ago, the Petty family opened a summer camp for sick children Tuesday that mixes the high-octane allure of NASCAR with the rainbow wonders of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)|
Katie Martelle, a 23-year-old camp volunteer, said the camp makes her feel like a kid again.
``You automatically start jumping up and down and going, 'It's so cool here,''' Martelle said. ``It's definitely a fun place to be, we cannot wait to see the kids' reactions when they come here. Their faces are going to be precious.''
The camp also features a ``Body Shop,'' a 7,300-square-foot medical center with dialysis stations, a pharmacy and offices for nurses and doctors. The facility was intentionally designed not to look like a hospital, with medical equipment hidden behind cabinets.
``I've heard people come in tonight and say, 'What is this building?''' said Dr. Sharon Space, who will head the center. ``That was exactly the goal. I think it's going to be great, because the kids won't be scared. It will be just another fun place to go.''
Campers, who will not be charged, will attend different sessions based on their diseases. The first group includes youngsters who suffer from hemophilia and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The camp's staff includes medical specialists tailored to the week's visitors.
Kyle Petty and his wife Pattie founded the camp, which is affiliated with the ``Hole in the Wall Gang'' camps run by actor and racing enthusiast Paul Newman, who also attended Tuesday's event.
The Pettys visited one of the facilities, The Boggy Creek Gang Camp in Florida, several years ago. They were inspired to try to bring a similar camp to North Carolina even before Adam Petty's death.
Richard Petty and his wife Lynda donated most of the land on which the camp has been built. Other volunteers and workers have put in countless hours to get the camp ready.