After former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty’s 19-year old son was killed in a NASCAR racing accident in May 2000, the elder Petty co-founded a camp in Randleman, North Carolina, in his son’s honor. Victory Junction is a free camp for children with chronic illnesses.
Years earlier, Petty founded the Kyle Perry Charity Ride Across America, an annual cross-country group motorcycle ride that raised money for children’s hospitals across the country. The motorcycle ride will commence its 21st ride on Saturday, May 2, when it leaves Santa Cruz, California, and passes through Moab on Tuesday, May 5, before reaching its final destination of Branson, Missouri. In 2000, the charity ride changed its focus to raise funds for the Victory Junction camp so kids and their families could attend for free.
“We see really sick kids; the majority that come, spend at least 30 to 40 days in the hospital per year,” said Petty, who works for NBC’s sports network “NASCAR America” show.
“In the previous 10 years, 21,000 kids and their families have come to the camp for totally free,” he said. “That’s what this ride is all about – to raise money to send kids for free.”
The Victory Junction camp near Charlotte, North Carolina, aims to give children ages 6 to 16, camping experiences often not available for children who are seriously ill with conditions such as spina bifida, diabetes and juvenile arthritis. At the week-long, and weekend camps, children are encouraged to look beyond their illnesses and try new things while under “unobtrusive, 24-hour medical supervision,” according to the camp web site, www.victoryjunction.org. Victory Junction is a member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network of Camps founded by Paul Newman.
Members of the charity motorcycle ride will arrive in Moab some time around 2:45 p.m. on May 5. They will stay at the Holiday Inn, 1515 N. U.S. Highway 191, where they expect to visit with Moab residents who are following the event on www.facebook.com/KPCharityRide, or on Twitter and Instagram, @KPCharityRide.
Money for Victory Junction is raised by donations collected via the website, or from donations by fans along the motorcycle ride route. Last year, during and leading up to the 20th-year anniversary ride, the organization raised $1.1 million for the camp, according to Kyle Perry Charity Ride Executive Director Morgan Castano. The money comes from sponsorships, donations and ride participation fees.
NASCAR fans across the nation come out to meet the motorcyclists, she said, including a little boy in Michigan who donated a Pringles can filled with change in 2008.
“We hope in Moab we have a great crowd of NASCAR fans as well,” Castano said.
Ten riders, including Petty, and at least one husband and wife team, Dave and Renee Bartell, have not missed a ride since the annual event started. The ride includes about 115 bikes, with 125 to 130 riders – some of them doubled-up. An additional 30 people make up the support staff, Petty said.
The support team is comprised of all volunteers, including North Carolina highway patrolmen, and firemen from Charlotte, Castano said.
According to a news release, this year’s ride include celebrities NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty; NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth; NASCAR legends Harry Gant and Donnie Allison; former NFL player Herschel Walker; Harley-Davidson president and CEO Matt Levatich; NBC sports NASCAR analyst Rick Allen; co-host of History Channel’s Top Gear America and NASCAR personality Rutledge Wood.
“Every year it’s a different route,” Petty said. Although, “some places we’ve been back through a couple of times, like Richfield, Utah – a great town – and Cedar City.”
The riders generally eat their meals together, and stay together as a group while riding. Their stop in Moab, however, is a “free night,” Petty said, where participants are free to explore Moab on their own.
In the past two decades, more than 7,500 riders have logged 11.1 million cumulative motorcycle miles, and raised more than $16 million for Victory Junction and other children’s charities.
Kyle Petty along with ex-NFL player Herschel Walker, Harley-Davidson CEO and others stop in Moab on May 5
For more information, or to find out about the riders’ estimated time of arrival in Moab, go to kylepettycharityride.com.