Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America comes to Bettendorf May 6

Racing fans can meet some of the superstars in the field as Kyle Petty, former NASCAR driver, bring his Charity Ride Across America to Bettendorf’s Isle Casino, 1777 Isle Parkway, on Monday, May 6 at about 5 p.m.

Petty is excited when he talks about the event. “We do a motorcycle ride every year called the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America; it’s the longest name of any charity in America, I will say that. We are starting in Deadwood, S.D., we’re headed to North Platte, Neb., over to Omaha and then Bettendorf Iowa, staying there on the Mississippi at the Isle Casino and Resort there, so really excited about that, then headed over to Indianapolis to the Speedway, then down to Churchill Downs to see some of that action and then down to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green Ky., then Bristol Tenn. and the famous half-mile race track there and then on to Victory Junction back in Greensboro N.C., a camp that our family founded in honor and memory of my oldest son Adam, who was killed in a racing accident. It’s a camp for children with chronic and serious medical needs. We’ve seen over 125,000 kids totally free of charge at camp and through our outreach program. We’re really excited about the ride this year, sending more kids to camp.

Why a motorcycle ride? It came down to that or a rather unusual fundraiser. “Listen everybody plays golf. I said ‘OK here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna do motorcycles or we’re gonna have a curling tournament in the South because nobody in the South knows anything about curling,” he laughed. “A bunch of us just rode from California to North Carolina that first year and raised some money and it just took off. Honestly, it’s just one of those things that you thought would last a year or two and here we are, 28 years later, we’ve raised almost $22 million and still just continue to ride and send kids to camp and give money away.”

“The way we do our ride is we pick the beginning point and we pick the end point and then we connect the dots. We try to go places we have never been before. We’ve never been to North Platte, we’ve never been to Bettendorf Iowa, we’ve never been to Bowling Green Ky. There’s places along the route this year that we have never been before. In the past, we rode straight across the country. We very rarely stopped; we stopped for fuel and then we stopped for the night and that was about it. This year, we’re stopping at places. We’re stopping at Mount Rushmore, we’re stopping there at the Mississippi River at Bettendorf, we’re stopping at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I like to joke and tell people that all the stuff that we ran by for 25-26 years, we’re actually going back and stopping at a lot of that stuff now.”

It wasn’t hard lining up people for the ride. “We had other guys that raced on the circuit at the same time I did that wanted to go with us – Tony and Stewart, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Bodine, Todd Bodine, lots of guys like that. Matt Kenseth has gone with us, now my dad (Richard Petty) goes with us. He’s 86 years old and rides a trike.” Others on this ride include Kenny Wallace, Kenny Schrader, Mike Wallace, Max Pappas, David Reagan, Rutledge Wood and Herschel Walker.

The days of 400-500 mile long rides are over for the group but shorter days mean more time for tourism and meeting fans, says Petty. “We’ll ride probably a couple of hours and then we’ll stop for an hour and then we’ll ride a couple of hours and we’ll stop for an hour and then we’ll ride the rest of the way. We try to do somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 to 320 miles a day. We try to leave by 8 or 9 in the morning and try to get in by 4 or 5 in the afternoon, which is a regular working day, and allow people to just experience the cities that we’re in, the places that we go, the people that we meet and have a good dinner and a good night’s sleep and go again the next day.”

For Petty, it’s not what they see on the road but who they see that matters. “I say this all the time and I say it in all honesty, that we have gone from Seattle to Key West, we have gone from LA to Charlotte, we have gone from Huntington Beach CA all the way to Daytona Beach, Fla., ocean to ocean, we’ve gone north to south. It’s not the places you go, it’s the people that you meet. So many cool people that we meet. I was in Bettendorf at the Isle casino back in October or November, doing our site inspection and went across to a place called Sports Fan Pizza across the street, ran in the two or three race fans, and spent about an hour over there waiting on my pizza and talking to them about racing. It’s those people that you remember, that’s the reason I always remember Bettendorf because there’s race fans there that understand racing, that knew about it.”

Fans are welcome to stop by the Isle and meet the riders. “We want fans to come out and see us at the hotel, get autographs, get your photo taken with Richard Petty, with Herschel Walker, with some of the celebrities that we’ve have and learn about Camp Victory Junction,” said Petty. “It’s a special place; we’ve sent 125,000 kids to camp or touched their lives through our outreach program. That’s what the ride is all about; camp is totally free to all families that come. There’s children from your area that will be there that have gone to camp with us. We’re excited about seeing them again and hopefully there’ll be more kids that come.”

Victory Junction is a camp for kids who have all types of serious and/or chronic medical conditions. “I don’t even remember how many disease groups we see. We have summer camp, we have spring camp and fall camp, we have Camp in a Box that we take to hospitals to visit kids. It is just an amazing, amazing place and it’s totally free of charge to all families. We didn’t want to be an added burden to families who are in financial crisis a lot of times. We just take your kids for a week, let them play with other kids that have the same illnesses, the same fights, the same battles, the same joys, the same dreams that your kids have and then send them back home. Hopefully, it’s a week of their life they’ll never forget.”

For more on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, click here.

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