Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Adam's Dream: Campers at Victory Junction Enjoy the Ability to Have a Week's Worth of Nonstop Fun. at This Camp, No Child Is Forced to Sit Back and Watch Everyone Else Have a Good Time

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Adam's Dream: Campers at Victory Junction Enjoy the Ability to Have a Week's Worth of Nonstop Fun. at This Camp, No Child Is Forced to Sit Back and Watch Everyone Else Have a Good Time

Article excerpt

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Growing up as a young girl, summer camp was a typical affair. Packed lunches kept cold with frozen freezer packs, seemingly endless slip n' slides, activities, games, contests. Every morning, I was eager to wake up and head off to hours and hours of fun with friends and counselors.

My brother, Nick, also headed off on a small school bus to his summer camp. But his camp was a little different than mine. Nick has cerebral palsy. His summer camp was a lot more like his version of school: lots of the same types of therapy and many of the same experiences and repetitiveness. Make no mistake, the programs he was involved in were fantastic for him: giving him the services he needed and the interaction with others so necessary to his overall growth and development. For some unexplainable reason, though, the version of summer camp that Nick experienced always made me feel uneasy. I always questioned why he couldn't have the same type of fun at camp his other siblings had. Some liked to say it was because he was "different." I could never understand this perspective. Nick isn't different. Nick is Nick.

To me, there was nothing unusual about him. Nick was just my little brother. He deserved a chance to live and experience that which we all enjoyed every day. I believe with every fiber of my being this is true. Wouldn't that have been special? Wouldn't that have been truly exceptional? A summer camp where Nick, despite his so called "differences", could have the same type of interactive fun as his siblings were having.... literally inconceivable in my youth. Even today, it is hard to imagine. But through the vision, dream, and heart of one wonderful young man with a heart as big as the universe, Adam Petty, such a camp is now a reality.

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Adam Petty was the first fourth generation driver in NASCAR history. He was an exceptional racecar driver. In 1999, Adam and his family took part in a charity motorcycle ride for terminally ill children. After seeing the children so blissfully happy, Adam, at merely 19 years old, developed a fantastic and nearly inconceivable dream: to build a camp for these suffering children, where they could be as happy each day there as they were at that charity event. Adam's dream was one in which he could literally alter thousands of lives. His dream gave children who were so badly hurting on the inside and not exposed to "typical" childish fun, a chance to enjoy what everyone else got to experience. At such a young age, with such incredible talent, and so many opportunities in front of him, Adam's dream was one that others would probably not expect to come from someone so young and on top of the world. Yet, it did. Adam wanted to give hope to these kids and their families, especially when all hope seemed to be lost. It is rare to see such vision in someone so young. It is rarer still to see it in a young man with incredible racing skills and his entire future in front of him, so passionate about those whose lives were challenged by disease and disabilities. Adam wanted his dream to become a reality.

Tragically, Adam Petty was killed in a crash in May 2000. Such a horrific catastrophe could have easily cost the happy ending to the story, an ending to Adam's dream. Yet, the story has a twist. That same year, Adam's parents, Kyle and Pattie Petty, began discussions with the founder of the Hole in the Wall Camps--Paul Newman (yes, the great actor and salad dressing entrepreneur). This was the second phase of Adam's dream: the part where it came true.

Adam's parents spent four years fundraising and building the camp. How did they do it? Well, the Petty family happens to know a few fairly well-known race car drivers. Some of them had heard about Adam's dream and wanted to contribute to making it become a reality. Some founders of "Victory Junction"--and coincidentally, some of NASCAR's best drivers--include Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. …

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