RANDLEMAN—Former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty is calling this year's charity ride the biggest and best ever.
The annual event raises money for Victory Junction, a camp that serves kids with chronic medical conditions and serious illnesses.
The Pettys have turned a deeply personal tragedy into a place where life is celebrated.
"There's not a day that goes by that you don't think of him, or a day that goes by that he doesn't cross my mind or make me laugh in a funny way,” Kyle Petty said. “There's never a time that I come to camp or I'm on a motorcyle, and I don't feel he's there with me."
When Petty's son, Adam, was killed in a NASCAR accident in 2000, he decided to open a camp to honor his son's memory.
“The idea for the camp came from a ride,” Petty said. “Adam and I were on a ride at Boggy Creek which is a sister camp to Victory Junction in Florida. Out of the blue, he's like 'why don't we build a camp in NC?'"
That's when Victory Junction was born.
"Our mission here is to serve kids with medical conditions ages 6-16,” said camp CEO Chad Coltrane. “What we want to do is provide those kids with a life-changing summer camp experience."
Kyle's annual charity ride has become the largest continuous donor to camp.
"So many people that go on the ride volunteer at camp, and we see a lot of campers along the way in every city we stop in,” Petty said.
"We've seen 23,000 kids that normally wouldn't get to go to any camp because of their affilictions,” said Richard Petty.
Supporters helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the camp during this year's ride.
"Somewhere between $800,000 and $1,000,000 total,” Kyle Petty said.
When kids come to camp, their disabilities are left at the door, and they're able to do everything normal kids do at camp in a medically safe environment. It's all free for every single camper, thanks to fundraisers like the charity ride.
"From our standpoint, we see Adam every time we see a happy kid, and it makes us feel good, too,” Richard Petty said.
"When you see these kids leave with a smile on their face, that's a little bit of Adam smiling with each one of them,” Kyle Petty said.
This year marked the 22nd annual charity ride.
Plans are already in the works for next year's event.