Local News

NASCAR-Themed Camp A Getaway For Some Children

Posted July 16, 2006 11:47 a.m. EDT

— From the painful loss of a son came a special gift for others.

NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and his wife Patti built a special camp in Randolph County in honor of their son, Adam, who died in a racing accident six years ago.

The camp is called Victory Junction Gang Camp, serving children with serious illness and disabilities. This week, patients from the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals are at the camp enjoying what could be described as the Disneyland of all summer camps.

With its colorful buildings and a NASCAR theme, the first reaction of new campers is usually like that of Rachel Bryant of Fayetteville.

"I was like, 'Woah!'" Bryant said.

"I couldn't believe it," said Dylan Howard of Burlington. "There's just lots of stuff you can do here. It's all fun."

There's the ropes course, swimming, fishing, horseback riding and a loud, raucous dining hall. While they eat, teams of campers compete with complex team chants and songs. When the meal ends the dance floor fills up.

For 25 years, the Jaycee Burn Center at UNC has provided a summer camp experience for young burn patients through Camp Celebrate. For the past two years, they've come to the Petty family's camp.

Different weeks of the camp serve children who have sickle cell disease, cancer or other serious medical conditions. It's all paid for and supported by corporate and private donations so that the kids and their families never have to pay a dime.

The Goody's Body Shop is their hospital if they need one.

Inside, treatment rooms look just like the camp cabins. It was designed without the clinical look you find in most medical facilities.

"Because most of these kids have been involved with medical treatments for extensive periods of time, this is camp, and so their time here, we want it to be camp," said Brad Chase, a physician's assistant at the camp.

Some burn survivors have never been to a camp. Their scars may limit mobility and large skin grafts can make it difficult for the body to sweat and regulate body heat.

Then, there's the stigma many burn survivors feel when other children focus on their condition more than their personality.

Bryant, for example, badly burned an arm in a home accident when she was 1 year old. For her, the other campers are what makes this week special.

"Whenever I'm at school, everybody's like, 'What happened to your arm?'" she said. "I'm like, 'I got burned.' And like here, most people have got the same thing that's happened. It's just different."

It costs about $2,500 to send one child to Victory Junction Gang Camp. Medical staff members at camp often donate their time and much of the medical equipment is also donated.