Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America motorcade

Buena Vista police chief Jimmy Tidwell supervises the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America motorcade as it passes through the Main Street-U.S. 24 intersection May 6 following a visit at McPhelemy Park.

The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, which made a pit stop in Buena Vista last month, raised more that $1.7 million for Victory Junction, a summer camp for children with chronic illnesses.

In its 25th year, the Charity Ride took a motorcycle caravan of 250 riders diagonally across the continental United States – a 9-day journey from Seattle, Wash. to Key Largo, Fla.

A news release from Ride Across America said that since its first ride in 1995, the charity has raised $18.5 million for Victory Junction and other children’s charities.

“I think that is the most we’ve raised since 2004,” Petty said of this year’s amount. “The project this goes to is bringing kids to camp … bringing kids from all over to Victory Junction to see what camp is all about.”

Victory Junction was co-founded by Petty and his family with the help of the actor and stock car racer Paul Newman 15 years ago to honor Petty’s son Adam, who died in 2000 in a crash. Adam was the first one to suggest to Petty the idea of opening the camp, he said.

Victory Junction, based in Petty’s hometown of Randleman, N.C., offers a medically-safe way for children with chronic conditions to experience the fun of a summer camp.

Not only is Victory Junction a “hospital disguised as a summer camp,” but it offers kids whose lifestyles are considerably impacted by their conditions to hang out with children going through the same thing and see that “I’m not alone in this world,” Petty said.

“That week, they are the majority. It’s all about them,” he said.

The crew’s stopover in BV May 8 came on the trip’s fourth day, taking them from Glenwood Springs to Santa Fe, N.M.

After gassing up at Love’s, the caravan circled into McPhelemy Park, where residents gathered to meet Petty and other NASCAR stars like Donnie Allison, Harry Gant and Max Papis, as well as football greats like Herschel Walker and George Rogers.

Members of the Arkansas Valley Car club presented Petty with a $200 donation to the charity ride, as did Chad Close and Trey Wilson from Alpine Tire.

Jim Olson, president of the Car Club, said the donation is “part of what we do. Just giving back to the community.”

“I’m a donator,” Close said. “I love to help charities.”

Petty said, “It’s the people you meet along the way,” that make each trip special. “That’s the part that we take away from every ride.”

And, especially in the first 4 days of the ride, crossing through the mountain west were “the views, man … you see the mountains, you see the snowcapped peaks.

“It was fantastic, to put it in a word.”

The cities and towns along this year’s route welcomed the ride with open arms, including more than 15 mayoral appearances who presented proclamations and/or keys to the city.

Also, the ride received a tribal blessing from leaders of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation during its visit to Pendleton, Ore. Other highlights include Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant attending a pit stop in Magee, Miss., and the entire student body of Lee Elementary School greeting the Ride in Lee, Fla.

Petty acknowledged that we in the Colorado high country “are pretty far from any race track,” but was thankful to see so many people come out and support the ride. Speaking by phone from his home after the ride had come to an end.”

Petty had this request, “Make sure everybody knows what a blessing it was.”

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