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Victory Junction opens entirely different world to visitors

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 about camp."

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 play

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 Cell Anemia.

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!

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