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Camp for seriously ill children set to open.

By Todd Cohen

RANDLEMAN, N.C. [06.02.04] — Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp in Randleman for seriously ill children that has been created by the Petty family and will be part of a network of camps inspired by actor Paul Newman, hopes to reach its $24.4 million capital goal before it opens June 20.

The camp has raised $23 million and needs to raise only $400,000 more to secure a $1 million challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation in Troy, Mich., that will complete the drive, says Brian Collier, executive director.

With the capital drive nearly wrapped up, Collier says, the camp already is raising money for its annual fund and gearing up for a $5 million endowment drive to begin early in 2005.

The camp also is raising money to cover its annual budget, which this year will get a $500,000 boost from funds raised in the capital drive but still requires another $1.1 million to be raised privately.

While this year’s $1.6 million annual budget will cover just over half-a-year of operations, next year’s budget will grow to $2.5 million to cover the first full year of operations.

Opening events include a June 17 open-house and a June 15 invitation-only celebrity gala June 15 that will include Newman, donors who made large gifts, and Nascar drivers, sponsors and team owners.

Serving children ages 7 to 15 from the Carolinas and Virginia with life-threatening or chronic illnesses, the free camp throughout the summer will run eight sessions of roughly one week for 125 campers each, with each session designed for children with a specific disease, starting with hemophilia and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

The 75-acre camp, built on land donated by Richard and Lynda Petty from their farm and incorporating a racing theme, contains 32 buildings totaling 170,000 square feet, all built to be accessible to handicapped persons, plus a nine-acre lake filled in April with 16.5 million gallons of water.

Staffing the year-round camp will be 25 full-time employees, 50 seasonal workers in the summer and another 50 volunteers ever week during the summer.

The camp has enlisted seven “founding” hospitals that will refer children to the camp, provide volunteer medical staff and donate supplies and equipment.

“Our next goal is to identify hospitals in South Carolina and Virginia, as well as a nationwide hospital partner,” says Collier.

The capital drive, chaired by Leo Hindery, founder and former CEO of the YES Network that broadcasts games for the New York Yankees, New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils, has received more than 16,000 donations from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and a handful of other countries, including Austria, Canada, England, Japan and Mexico.

The biggest gift to the camp was $1.25 million from the Bahre family, owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N.H., the track where Nascar driver Adam Petty was killed four years ago at age 19.

His parents, Pattie and Kyle Petty, a Nascar driver who is Richard Petty’s son, founded the camp in Adam’s memory.

Other big gifts include $1 million each from Leo Hindery, Nextel, Goody’s Headache Powder, Kyle Petty Charity Ride, Tony Stewart Foundation; $750,000 from Linda and Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motor Sports and Hendrick Automotive in Charlotte; and $500,000 each from Paul Newman and Virginia land developer Larry Silver.

Nascar also made a big gift and donated media support, including a free spot for commercials during each Nascar race aired on national television, and four fundraising fun walks during Nascar race weekends.

The camp’s first six founding hospitals include Brenner Children’s Hospital at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem; High Point Regional Hospital; Moses Cone Health System in Greensboro; Mission Hospitals in Asheville; Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte; Duke Children’s Hospital in Durham; N.C. Children’s Hospital at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill; and University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina in Greenville.

The camp will be the seventh in the network of Hole in the Wall Camps backed by Newman that include five in the U.S. and two overseas, in France and Ireland, with another in the works in Israel, plus a summer program in South Africa that uses a wildlife preserve and mainly serves children with HIV/AIDS.

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