It's a long, winding and bittersweet road from Lake Placid, N.Y., to Amelia Island, Fla. There is an official party stop Thursday on Shem Creek as part of the 17th annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, a motorcycle fundraiser involving 175 riders.
Thursday also marks the 11th anniversary of Adam Petty's death. Kyle and Pattie Petty's son and fourth-generation stock car driver was killed at age 19 during a Busch Series practice lap in New Hampshire on May 12, 2000.
"May is a hard month and it always is and I think every day is a little bit hard, no matter what you do," said Petty, a former NASCAR driver and part-time Isle of Palms resident.
But the Charity Ride also has a "healing effect," Petty said by phone.
Not just for the Petty family. Since the Charity Ride started, $14 million has been raised to help send 7,200 kids free of charge to Victory Junction, a camp designed for chronically ill children unable to attend conventional camps.
"We really didn't think it would last more than a couple years when we started it," said Petty, 50. "It's just one of those things people have latched on to."
The Shem Creek shindig is scheduled to start Thursday at 1:15 p.m. at Red's Ice House. Petty picked the pit stop.
"It's a place I kind of frequent when I'm down that way," he said.
At least 10 motorcyclists have been on each one of the Charity Rides. Men, women, kids and families are along for the adventure. Celebrity riders signed up for all or part of the trip include former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, former NBA and North Carolina basketball star Brad Daugherty and NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine.
Walker and Bodine are schedule to appear at a Friday breakfast pit stop at Lowcountry Harley-Davidson on Dorchester Road at approximately 8:15 a.m.
The 2011 Kyle Petty Charity Ride started Saturday in Lake Placid and ends Friday in Amelia Island. Along with Mount Pleasant, overnight stops include Corning, N.Y.; Farmington, Pa.; Irvington, Va.; and Wilmington, N.C.
Victory Junction was opened in 2004 in honor of Adam Petty. The camp spills over 84 acres in Randleman, N.C. Funding is underway for a second Victory Junction in Kansas City, Kan.
The ride also raises money for children's hospitals. Supporters can donate at pit stops or at kylepettycharityride.com
Petty and his fellow riders will spend Thursday night in Mount Pleasant at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.
"That area with all the restaurants and Shem Creek and the ferry that goes back and forth (to Charleston) for the riders, it's going to be a fun place for us to come," Petty said. "There's so much history there and so much going on."
Friday, it's back on the road again for the stretch ride to Amelia Island.
This has to be one of the best combinations of fun and cause in all of sports.
"It's hard to believe that just riding a motorcycle and using that as a focal point can affect so many families and so many kids' lives through the donations people make along the way," Petty said. "It's just a motorcycle ride; we're not doing anything spectacular or saving the world. But at the same time, it has a major impact on a lot of people's lives."
Some of those Victory Junction kids disagree, believing Petty and his fellow bikers have saved a big part of their world.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5593.
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