by Brendan Gaughan
Through my topics this year, there has been one recurring theme
that I am sure has been noted -- kids. I love kids and recently I
spent an evening with a very appreciative group of children whose
lives have been changed, thanks to the Petty family, founders of the
Victory Junction Gang Camp.
One of the commitments on my schedule was to visit the Victory
Junction Gang Camp, so I headed to Randleman, N.C., the Tuesday
before I left for Daytona. I had a special evening with the kids and
a great tour of the camp provided by Austin Petty, Kyle and Pattie's
son, along with Amanda Rogers, VJGC's special events manager.
Everything I had read about the camp did not prepare me for a
visit with some campers that evening. The Petty family has built a
magical place for chronically- and terminally-ill children. Thanks to
the efforts and help of many individuals and companies who, through
their generosity, have helped not only to create a camp for these
children, but a legacy that will live on long after the last Petty
retires from stock car racing. Everyone that helped build the camp
should be proud and honored for their contribution and to the Petty
family, I am in awe of your vision. The impact VJGC will make in the
lives of its campers is immeasurable.
When I first arrived, we joined the campers at dinner, and I
have to say it must be the most rockin' dinner I have had the honor
to attend. Following a quick autograph/photo session, I was adopted
as an honorary member to the Yellow House. I was then taught
the "Shake your tailpipe" chant and dance.
We all know that wherever I go there is a Kodak EasyShare
camera, so there is a brief video of me shaking my tailpipe. Not a
pretty sight, but the kids seemed to enjoy it so, oh well, back to
making a fool out of myself because as I quickly learned, "It's all
What else is there to do after shaking my tailpipe but to have a
couple of campers put a pie in my face. Whip cream in my face, again!
I wonder if it is good for the complexion. Then we continued our tour
of the camp. The "Horsepower Garage" was one of my favorites. Thanks
to my family's involvement with horse competitions, I really enjoy
being around horses. However, nothing compares to the looks on the
kids' faces when they pet a horse for the first time, or see a
miniature horse. Yes, a miniature horse, not a Shetland pony. The
look is priceless. I watched one little boy kiss a donkey and he
could not have been more proud of himself
I almost forgot about the pool. WOW! I wished I was a camper and
was able to jump in. From the lazy river with the Watkins Glen theme
to the giant motorcycle that doubles as a huge water gun, it is one
of the coolest pools ever created. There is also a section that
allows campers who are wheelchair bound to enter the pool so they can
The camp has everything to allow a kid to be a kid. All medical
conditions were considered during the design and construction phases,
including a room that allows the children to warm their bodies.
That's very important to the campers I visited since they had Sickle
I am very fortunate to have been able to grow up a happy and
healthy young man. Visiting the camp, I realized the things take for
granted are not available to everyone, like petting animals or
swimming. For a large part, the children who attend the camp have
heard, "No, you can't do that," so much that they believed it, until
now VJGC opens an entirely different world to its visitors.
I know I have had a bad weekend, but when I have time off I will
be found at the camp I've passed the message along so everyone knows
if they are looking for me and can't find me, they should check no
further than the Victory Junction Gang Camp, hanging out with kids
that are of the same mentality level as me! To heck with Disneyland,
I'm going to camp!