Nestled in the quiet rolling hills of central North Carolina, surrounded by tall pines and lush farmland, lies a wondrous place full of adventure, discovery, and acceptance. Passing through the doors of brightly colored buildings, the freedom of childhood and the magic of camp comes alive.
This special place was the dream of Adam Petty, a fourth-generation race car driver from the legendary Petty family. Adam’s passion for racing was equaled only by his compassion for others, especially children. Between races, he frequently visited pediatric hospitals. After his tragic death in 2000, Adam’s family and friends came together to build his dream of a camp to serve children with serious illnesses; a camp intentionally made accessible with adaptive equipment so that every child could play and experience the delight and joys of camp.
In June 2004, Adam’s legacy of love was realized when the first campers passed through the gates of Victory Junction.
Year-round on-site and off-site programming includes summer camp, family retreats, day programs, pediatric patient outreach, and partner programs. By removing all barriers, camp welcomes children with complicated medical conditions.
On-site program areas include: a 55-ft. scaling tower, zip line, giant swing, theater, arts and crafts, boating and fishing, a water park, bowling, archery, horseback riding, and mini-golf.
In 2010, Victory Junction expanded its programming to include off-site pediatric patient outreach. Partnering with hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the Carolinas, the REACH team brings Victory Junction to children who require hospital admission.
A part of the SeriousFun Children’s Network (SeriousFun), a network made up of 30 camps and programs around the world–including nine in the U.S., Victory Junction adheres to strict guidelines on camper care, financial competency, and program innovations. Additionally, the camp meets the rigorous safety standards of the American Camp Association.
A Tremendous Need
Meeting the needs of children with physical or cognitive disabilities is an area of great need in communities across the world. These children are often underserved or unserved and have limited access or opportunities for social inclusion and growth. Children with disabilities, chronic medical conditions, or serious illnesses may experience feelings of isolation, low self-confidence, and struggle with self-identity. They are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress symptoms while lacking adequate medical self-care and advocacy.
A Sense of Possibility
Victory Junction not only provides opportunities for fun and play, but it is also transformational. A 2021 study of camper alumni from around SeriousFun Children’s Network found that SeriousFun camp experiences greatly influenced campers in developing:
- Willingness to try new things (90%)
- Self-identity and self-confidence (86%, 85%)
- Perseverance (84%)
Camper alumni also indicated the elements of camp that were most important to their experience were:
- feeling accepted and not judged
- feeling a sense of freedom
- feeling a sense of possibility
These outcomes highlight how Victory Junction experiences provide safe, inclusive, and meaningful opportunities for campers to continue growing and engaging with new experiences and people.
How Victory Junction Changes Lives
Victory Junction is so much more than a summer camp! Twelve months out of the year, Victory Junction creates meaningful connections in communities of individuals with complex medical conditions.
Children are invited to attend one week of residential summer camp aligned with their specific diagnosis. Paired in cabins with their peers, campers are assigned to color-themed units. A sea of red, blue, green, and yellow T-shirts and face paint washes over the grounds, while spirited unit-specific cheers are heard throughout the day. Campers celebrate new friendships and a sense of belonging. Friendships form not only with peers, but with counselors, who help guide, teach, and care for the campers throughout the week. Some of these friendships flourish for the rest of their lives.
At the end of the week, campers head to Lake Hugh to sing songs in front of the closing night campfire. They are encouraged to write their hopes, dreams, and wishes onto wooden sticks that are tossed into the fire. The embers float up to the skies and turn into dazzling bright stars. Legend has it, when you see a shooting star, that is one of their wishes coming true.
Before and after the heat of summer, camp opens its doors not only for campers but also their families. Moms and dads, caregivers, and siblings have a chance to take part in traditional camp activities while enjoying important time together. For some, this is the only opportunity to meet other families who are navigating life with similar situations and diagnoses.
Victory Junction offers day programs that provide an opportunity for children with autism spectrum disorder and other diagnoses a chance to experience camp in a unique way designed around their specific needs.
When kids can’t leave the hospital, the magic of camp comes to them. REACH partners with hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the Carolinas. For children in partner hospitals, REACH provides a break from hospital stays through activities like play-archery, bowling with inflatable pins, and constructing paper campfires! These activities relieve stress, nurture play and imagination, and offer distraction from medical procedures. Every activity is carefully designed to meet the specific needs and abilities of each child, and all activities are structured in compliance with hospital policies.
Victory Junction partners with diagnosis community groups and healthcare organizations to host a variety of on-site events, utilizing intentional programming to provide support and camp experiences for all participants.
From Communities Next Door or 4,000 Miles Away
Since 2004, Victory Junction has provided over 105,000 experiences to kids and their families. Children have visited from every state, DC, Puerto Rico, Canada, Denmark, England, and Switzerland. Serving over 500 different medical diagnoses, Victory Junction is unique in the medical camp community in its ability to accommodate the broadest range of disabilities and diagnoses.
Victory Junction has built a community for children with complex medical conditions, where they are accepted as themselves and appreciated for who they are, so that they can see themselves in a world that is inclusive and welcoming. To learn more about all the different ways you can get involved, please visit victoryjunction.org.