By: Ginny Talley
Photos by Kevin Kane Photography
This year, former NASCAR driver and NBC Sports racing analyst, Kyle Petty, celebrated the 25th Anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America by leading the longest route in the ride’s history. Traveling a true corner-to-corner route across the United States, the ride started in Seattle, Washington, on Friday, May 3, and ended in Key Largo, Florida, on Saturday, May 11.
On this milestone anniversary route, Petty led 250 participants, including more than 30 new riders, through 11 states in just nine days. On its longest route ever, the ride traveled nearly 3,700 miles to raise funds and awareness for Victory Junction – a camp dedicated to providing life-changing camping experiences for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
Riding from Washington to Florida, this year’s trek offered a variety of incredible scenic views. From the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and the red rock terrain in Utah, to the Colorado hot springs and Rocky Mountains, to the North Central Plains of Texas and the Louisiana bayou, and then the Everglades and sunny Florida beaches, Petty believes the 25th Anniversary Ride was the ride of a lifetime.
Each day of the ride had a different sponsor, including North Carolina’s own Tilley Harley-Davidson. The founder of Tilley Harley-Davidson, the late Don Tilley, was also a founding member of the Ride and became known as “Rand McNally” due to the fact that he planned the Ride’s route for 20 years. After he passed, his daughter and son-in-law, Denise and Terry LeVan, have continued to represent the Tilley family on the Ride as well as continue Tilley Harley-Davidson’s support. This includes providing police motorcycles for the Ride’s motor marshals and shipping bikes to the Ride’s starting point each year.
“Corner to corner … Wow what a ride,” Terry LeVan said. “We rode in pouring rain, high winds and barely missed tornadoes. It was at times challenging for sure, but it was nothing compared to what these kids face every day. ”That’s why we ride. We ride so these awesome kids can go to camp and enjoy some things they normally don’t get to experience. What a great ride, with great people, and all for a great cause! Tilley Harley-Davidson is so proud to be involved with this ride and will always continue our support.”
Because of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, 8,185 children have attended Victory Junction at no cost to their families. Last year alone, the Ride raised $1.3 million and sent 100 children to Camp. Located in Randleman, North Carolina, Victory Junction has served as the Ride’s primary beneficiary since its establishment by Petty and his family in honor of his late son, Adam in 2004. “Because of our sponsors, fans and the people who participate in this Ride, whether they’re veteran participants or first-timers, so many deserving kids get to have the time of their life at Victory Junction each year,” said Petty.
Aside from touring the country, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, hosted fan events at their pit stops along the way. At each stop, fans were encouraged to come out to see the sight of 150 motorcycles riding for the cause, meet celebrity riders, purchase merchandise and make donations. Among the celebrities who participated in this year’s Charity Ride Across America were NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty; NASCAR legends Harry Gant, Hershel McGriff and Donnie Allison; current NASCAR driver David Ragan; former Formula 1, Champ Car and NASCAR driver Max Papis; former NFL great and Heisman Trophy winner (1982) Herschel Walker; Heisman Trophy winner (1980) and Super Bowl champion (XXII) George Rogers; and NBC Sports NASCAR personalities Krista Voda, Rutledge Wood, and Rick Allen.
To see some of the fun that was had during the 25th Anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, visit them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @kpcharityride. To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit www.kylepettycharityride.com.