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RALEIGH, N.C. – The credit union-backed charity campaign to benefit Hollywood actor Paul Newman’s “Victory Junction Gang Camp” for chronically ill youngsters hits a milestone this month as CUs in North and South Carolina plan to take part in ribbon cutting festivities of the North Carolina camp on June 1. “We’re pretty excited that we’re ahead of schedule with $400,000 and we hope to reach our $500,000 goal at the end of June,” said Steve Elam, executive director of the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation. The Foundation, funded by the North and South Carolina Leagues and which has been working on soliciting donations through local and statewide CU fund raisers since February 2003, is financing construction of two medical cabins on the Newman-linked property in Randelman, N.C. The camp, one of several the actor has put up around the country to “make life easier” for cancer-stricken youngsters, is slated to receive its first campers on June 20. During that week, the camp will be seeing troupes of CU executives from the two states taking guided tours of the property still under construction. Members of the North Carolina League, winding up their annual convention in nearby Pinehurst on June 16, have been invited to board shuttle buses to make the 40-mile ride to Randelman. Similarly, the same day South Carolina CU executives will be boarding buses from three sites in that state to make the trip, said Elam. On hand for the June 1 ribbon cutting will be NASCAR racecar driver Richard Petty, whose family donated the 36-acre Randelman property to Victory Junction. In addition to the two CU-supported cabins-one named after each League (Rockingham for North Carolina and Darlington for South Carolina)- the Carolinas Foundation has also raised funds to build a spiritual center on the site to honor its retired and long-time president/CEO Larry Johnson. Johnson retired last December. The “Larry & Hanna Johnson Spiritual Center,” a non-denominational worship facility named after the CEO and his wife, is slated to open in the fall, said Elam noting the two Leagues through the Foundation are committed to raising $1.3 million for the camp over a three year period. The camp is one of several round the globe set up through Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Foundation of New Haven, Conn. to help needy youngsters suffering crippling illness. Outside of the first camp opened in 1988 in Ashford, Conn., the Newman Foundation already has five such facilities including those in California, South Africa and France. In a press release, the North Carolina League quoted Petty as praising CUs for “taking this project on.” Petty said “we have been amazed at their commitment to Victory Junction Gang Camp” adding “it’ll be a pleasure to be there and say `thanks’ personally.” Also on hand for the June 1 ribbon cutting will be “Camper Number One” seven year-old Haleigh Epperson of Browns Summit, N.C. The news release noted that the camp is aimed at “enriching the lives of children with serious or life threatening illnesses by providing camping experiences that are memorable, exciting, fun, empowering, physically safe and medically sound.” The $24 million camp, set to a NASCAR theme, includes activities such as arts and crafts, horseback riding, water sports and a theater. Of all corporations funding the construction of 40 camp cabins at Victory Junction, the CU Leagues represent the only industry that will have two cabins with designations that the buildings were put up through donations from CU members. -

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