Sometimes every kid needs a chocolate-covered doughnut with sprinkles, and this young camper at the Victory Junction Camp near Randleman was having his with popcorn. Nicholas Lynn, M.D., a neonatologist at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, spent a week as a medical volunteer at the summer program for seriously ill and chronically ill children.
PINEHURST – It didn’t take Nicholas Lynn, M.D., long to be thoroughly awed by the kids, staff and environment of Victory Junction Camp.
A neonatologist at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, Dr. Lynn spent a memorable week in July volunteering at the summer camp for seriously ill and chronically ill children.
“I was blown away by the passion of the volunteers and paid staff for taking care of these kids,” he says. “Everyone was motivated and happy. It was effortless how well the staff worked together to make this an incredible experience for the kids.”
Located near the Randolph County town of Randleman, the Victory Junction Camp was the dream of the late Adam Petty, the son, grandson and great-grandson of stock car racing legends Kyle, Richard and Lee Petty. Taking their inspiration from the Hole in the Wall camps founded by actor Paul Newman, the Pettys turned Adam’s dream into reality after he was killed in a 2000 New Hampshire Speedway practice crash.
Built on 84 acres of land donated by Richard and Lynda Petty, the Victory Junction Camp has welcomed more than 14,000 children and families from 50 states and four foreign countries since it opened in 2004. Dr. Lynn’s interest in the program began with a “need for something else” in his personal and professional life.
After studying the Victory Junction website, he called the camp and asked for a tour. It took just one visit to the place to convince him that he had found the “something else” for which he had been searching.
“I was pretty sure I was hooked at that point,” he says.
Dr. Lynn’s volunteer stint took place during the week of July 17-22, Cancer Week, when the camp was heavily staffed with professional medical volunteers that included a pediatric hematologist and a pediatric cancer nurse.
The 80-plus campers were 6 to 16 years of age, and almost all had some form of cancer – mostly leukemias. One child’s medical regimen included IV antibiotics, but no one was acute.
Orientation introduced the weekly volunteers to the camp routine, and then it was down to business. “They throw you right in,” says Dr. Lynn. “Within a few hours, you’re dancing with the kids in the dining hall.”
Dr. Lynn’s job was essentially to be available if he was needed. He was, he admits, a little nervous at first since his Moore Regional work involves tiny babies and not chronically ill adolescents, but he adapted quickly.
He occasionally covered a call shift in the camp’s infirmary, fittingly dubbed The Body Shop, but otherwise was out among the children as they went about their camp activities. Nurses handled the usual camp-related cuts, scrapes and bug bites, and medications were distributed through a camp pharmacy.
The staff was made up of about 80 percent paid seasonal employees and 20 percent volunteers, but, to Dr. Lynn’s mind, there was absolutely no difference between the two groups. “Nobody was there for the job,” he says. “It was one of the most impressive groups of young people I’ve ever seen.”
Staff gatherings included talk about camp experiences and some occasional tears, but never when the campers were around. The specter of childhood illness stays deep in the background in this happy place where kids participate in routine camp activities as much as they are able.
“It was perfect for me,” Dr. Lynn says. “It was exactly what I wanted in that it was interacting with kids with incredible people to work with. The environment was exactly what I was looking for. My only regret is that I didn’t find out about it sooner. I can’t wait to get back.”