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Petty and Proehl: Philanthropic Partners

There was a time not so long ago when kids looked up to athletes as role models and heroes, but that adulation has been strained as of late. The NFL has been sacked with one scandal after another, while NASCAR races seem to have more fistfights than caution flags. Fortunately, two iconic stars of racing and football, Richard Petty and Ricky Proehl, have stepped forward and teamed up to help improve quality of life for kids and their families this holiday season and beyond.

King Richard is NASCAR’s most decorated star, having won an unprecedented 200 races during a career that spanned more than 20 years. But the Petty legacy was dealt a devastating blow in May of 2000 when Richard’s grandson, Adam, died in a track accident. A few years later, Richard and his son Kyle started the Victory Junction Camp to honor Adam, and make life better for children with severe disabilities and terminal illnesses.

Petty: We’re celebrating our tenth year at the Victory Junction Camp, and with everyone’s help, it’s been really exciting. Victory Junction helps kids who can’t go to regular camp. It gives them a chance to get out and have fun, where they’re not the only one who is afflicted the way they are. It just changes their whole world.

Victory Junction Camp is funded in part by the Petty Family Foundation, which supports a variety of charities from hospice programs to cancer centers.

Petty: We’re about a little bit of everything I guess. Camp is one of our really big deals, but we also do a lot with Paralyzed Veterans of America where we help guys and gals coming back from war who are disabled. We do stuff like that because we’re a family foundation.

These days, Ricky Proehl works as an offensive consultant for the Carolina Panthers, but in his heyday, Proehl was one of the most feared and respected wide receivers in the game, having earned two Super Bowl rings along the way. He also opened Proehlific Park in Greensboro, a comprehensive fitness facility that is well known for its work with kids. The Park offers an after school program, a basketball league, soccer leagues, physical training, and agility training. In 1995, Proehl expanded that mission when he started the P.O.W.E.R. of Play Foundation.

Proehl: We’ve learned that by showing a child love, acceptance and respect, that we can, in turn, help change their lives. The Foundation teaches the children in our programs through our core values of Play, Opportunity, Work, Excellence, and Respect. We tell them, “You can do whatever you want to do if you surround yourself with good people and make good choices.”

And though Petty and Proehl each help young people, their respective foundations had never joined forces until now. Earlier this year, Steve Hutchinson, CEO of Hutchinson Family Office, got the idea to bring the two sports icons together to help a select group of kids and their families during the holidays.

Hutchinson: Every year we sit down and think about how we want to direct our charitable efforts, and we’ve already worked with Richard and his Foundation, and we learned about Ricky and his Foundation, and it just seemed like a good mix for us, and they fit well.

In a sense, Hutchinson was motivated to help kids because of his own experiences growing up.

Hutchinson: When I grew up, most of my time was spent in the projects of Greensboro, and a lot of our Christmas and holiday gifts came from strangers. So this gives us a tremendous opportunity to give back. It’s important for us to work with Richard and Ricky – get these two foundations together. It’s all about helping the kids, and Christmas is a great time to help the kids.

Working with schools, social services, and other agencies, Proehl, Petty and Hutchinson identified 25 families in dire need of clothing, food, and toys this holiday season. Earlier this month, Richard jump-started the drive by presenting Ricky’s Foundation with a check for $5,000, and later this week, team Proehl will begin distributing donated items to the designated families.

And while this holiday drive is special, the work of the two foundations is never done, and relies on monetary donations throughout the year. I asked Steve, who helps his clients manage their wealth, if giving to these foundations represented a good investment.

Hutchinson: It’s an awesome investment because it’s one of the few ways, particularly with clients we work with, for them to be able to see the value of that donation during their lifetime. It goes a long way toward creating a legacy.

Petty, meanwhile, addressed his comments to the average working man and woman.

Petty: Most of us may not be as well off as we used to be, but we’re so much better off than the majority of people, so why not give back a little.

For more information on how to “give back a little” to these two Foundations, visit www.proehlificpark.com and www. pettyfamilyfoundation.org. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).

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