Hot Wheels, T-shirts, Petty signs it all
Westley McCormick embodies what Victory Junction Gang Camp is all about.
Just 12 years old, the Lexington native is a two-time cancer survivor who only wants to be treated like a normal kid his age. Westley, like so many other children battling chronic medical or serious illnesses, found that norm in his two trips to Victory Junction, a Randleman-based camp founded in 2004 by Kyle and Pattie Petty in memory of their son, Adam.
“It’s the funnest camp I’ve ever went to,” Westley said Tuesday afternoon at the Kangaroo Express at 1115 Randolph St. “It’s very fun. You get to make a lot of friends and meet kids who have the same cancer like you and you don’t get picked on.”
Victory Junction relies solely on donations and community support to raise money for the year-long camp that children and their families attend for free. On Tuesday, seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty paid the Chair City a visit, spending an hour signing autographs as part of a fundraiser that last year raised more than $1 million for Victory Junction.
“We come for the camp,” said Petty while sitting in front of a big pink truck donated by country music singer Taylor Swift to help raise awareness for Victory Junction. “Kangaroo does a lot for the camp and they raise a lot of money for us and the kids. This is kind of a thank you for them, plus it gets the camp out in front of people who don’t know we’re here. It’s a good combination that works really well.”
For the past five years, 700 Kangaroo locations across three states have made March its primary fundraising month for the camp, collecting donations that in 2012 sent 400 children to Randleman for a week’s worth of fun life-changing experiences in a safe environment. Since its inception, more than 17,000 children ages 6 to 16 and their families have visited the camp.
“Kangaroo has been with us since the word ‘go’ as far as letting us do things like this and raise money,” Petty said. “[Victory Junction] is bigger than what we ever thought it would be and will probably end up being even bigger. It’s more nationally known than we realized. We’re trying to get more money so we get more kids coming in, which is what this is all about.”
Petty returned to Thomasville for a third time on Tuesday and was met with the same type of fanfare as his previous two visits. People from all over the area waited patiently to see “The King.” NASCAR’s all-time winningest driver signed everything from T-shirts to diecast race cars.
“It’s really good what they do for the kids,” said Jonathan Rowe after getting Petty to sign a No. 43 Hot Wheels car. “I know they raise money and help them out and the kids get to do really fun stuff at the camp. I think it’s really good what [Petty’s] doing for them.”
Petty is just happy to help a program that touches the lives of so many children.
“You’d think you would get around to everybody,” said Petty, who has signed his share of autographs throughout his illustrious career. “It makes you feel good when people want your autograph. It’s a thank-you for being a race fan and a thank-you for helping with our family, helping the camp and helping everything from that standpoint.”
For more information, visit victoryjunction.org.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.