The King and I
July 24, 2017
July 24, 2017
15 years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare muscle cancer. I was five years old. I spent most of my time at Brenner Children’s Hospital where doctors, endless treatments and room 901 became very familiar to me. My Victory Junction story starts the same place Adam Petty’s dream started: the hospital. Adam traveled around the country to visit children in pediatric hospitals. That is where his dream of creating a camp – a place, for children to be kids no matter their disability or illness – started.
Adam passed away in a tragic racing accident, but his dream of Victory Junction was not over. Wanting to fulfill his dream, the Petty family visited hospitals across North Carolina to spread the word about building Victory Junction in his honor. That is how they met me. I became an ambassador of camp along with a few other kids. Although everyone was nice and kind, one man stuck out to me in particular. Behind a big belt buckle, cowboy hat and sunglasses was a man unlike anyone I had ever met. Some may know him as Richard Petty. Some may know him as the King of NASCAR – I know him as the king of Victory Junction.
Even the idea of Victory Junction gave me strength to fight for my life. It gave me something to look forward to when I was stuck in my hospital bed. On the days that I was healthy enough during treatment, I helped camp fundraising efforts. Richard was always there to lend me a smile or a kiss on the cheek as I posed for campaign photoshoots, starred in commercials and attended fundraisers. The hospital only reminded me of my cancer and that I was sick. Victory Junction allowed me to be a part of something special.
In elementary school kids can be mean when you look different. In my case, I had no hair. Finding a place I could go to without sympathetic stares or taunting comments was hard. Then, in 2004, I became one of the first kids to attend Victory Junction. Camp gave me an escape from the hurts of the world and it was somewhere I could be a kid. Camp was my safe place.
Now, more so than ever, I see the impact Victory Junction made in my life. I may not be that little girl anymore, but every time I drive into camp and see that iconic hot air balloon, I know that I am about to enter a place where people matter. That feeling will always call me back to Victory Junction.
This summer, I joined the marketing team as an intern and it has been my most memorable time at Victory Junction. Last week the children who attended camp were dealing with cancer, something that I will always hold close to my heart. In their smiling faces I saw me.
From the moment children enter the gates of camp, I hope they find the best versions of themselves no matter the obstacles in their lives. When kids leave Victory Junction, I hope they take more than just the camp experience with them. I hope they feel accepted and valued. Nobody knows how Victory Junction changes the lives of children more than I do.