Adam Petty was killed in a practice accident at New Hampshire Speedway on May 12, 2000 at the age of nineteen. Five months after that fateful day,his parents, Kyle and Pattie Petty partnered with Paul Newman and his Hole in the Wall Gang Camp organization to begin the Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, North Carolina. The camp was the culmination of Adam’s dream to help kids less fortunate than he had been, and it specifically focuses on children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. The biggest driving force behind the camp throughout its 12 years of existence has been Pattie Petty, Adam’s mother. Sadly, she will not be the driving force any longer as she has been removed from her position as Chairman and CEO. She will retain Chairwoman Emeritus status and act as a goodwill ambassador for Victory Junction. The details of her removal are not totally clear, as there are still some negotiations involved, but it would appear as though the chase for the almighty dollar has overridden the innocent vision of the camp.
From published reports, it appears that Mrs. Petty organized a Valentine’s Day fundraiser for the still-being-planned Victory Junction Gang Camp Midwest. The headline act of the event was Wynonna Judd who had agreed to perform for a reduced rate of $100,000. Apparently a donor, who had agreed to cover half of Ms. Judd’s fee, backed out at the last minute and the charity was forced to cover the $50,000 shortfall. Ms. Petty was reportedly relieved of her duties less than a week after the event. She says she was not allowed to explain the events that led to the shortfall, nor given the opportunity to reveal that Ms. Judd had agreed to return $50,000 of her fee and also perform a concert for free in North Carolina to raise more funds.
Mrs. Petty is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and is in a difficult position due to her need for health insurance. She recently began receiving a minimal salary from the charity in order to be eligible for health insurance and, as part of her negotiation for leaving her position, asked for lifetime health insurance. The organization is countering with an offer of two years.
The point where this whole sad situation takes a very strange twist is when Kyle Petty and his son, Austin issued statements about the developments. Austin is the Chief Operating Officer of the North Carolina camp and a member of the Board of Directors while Kyle is the Vice Chairman and is still on the board. Austin’s statement reads like someone who is toeing the corporate line and has zero feelings for his mother, who has poured her heart and soul into making her late son’s dream a reality.
“Victory Junction has extremely high ethical standards and only decisions that benefit the sustainability and longevity of camp are made by our well-respected Board Of Directors,” Austin said. “I can confirm my mom accepted a goodwill ambassador position as Chairwoman Emeritus from our Board, but that is all I can confirm at this point, given that this involves ongoing negotiations between an employee and employer.”
“While public figures are involved, this situation is no different from a regulatory perspective and personnel matters are private and confidential per the law and human resource policies. Because of this, we will not have any further comment on this or any other personnel issues at this time,” he continued. “Seriously ill children are the motivation of Victory Junction and we are as committed as ever to enriching the lives of chronically ill kids at our existing facility in Randleman, NC, as well as pushing forward the successes of a second camp serving the Midwest.”
Kyle’s statements do not have much more compassion in them than Austin’s do.
“It doesn’t impact anything, it really doesn’t. Basically, the board had decided to ask Pattie to take an emeritus role and just be a spokesperson. I have no concerns with the direction of the camp at all. Period,” Kyle said. “We’re always going to be involved in the camp. The camp was founded in memory of Adam, and we have worked incredibly hard to build the camp. But the camp is about the kids that come, and it’s all about what’s best for the kids. It’s a bigger story because she’s Pattie and the work she put in the camp and founding the camp and stuff.”
Neither Kyle nor his father, seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty, are purported to have participated in the board discussions about the role of Mrs. Petty going forward with the camp. It seems very odd that the Pettys, who have always been such a close knit, dedicated family, are now seeming so distant and callous toward Adam’s mother. It is true that business is business, but charity should have a little more leeway. It would seem that there has to be more to the story than just the failed fundraiser. Having no knowledge of what other items are playing behind the scenes in this whole disappointing tale, one can only hope that something can be worked out where Pattie Petty plays a more pivotal role in the Victory Junction Gang Camp than merely as a spokesperson. After all, there are far too many beats of her heart intertwined through every fabric of that camp and the organization for her to be so unceremoniously removed.
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