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RALEIGH, N.C. – The enthusiasm among Carolina credit union executives to benefit Hollywood actor Paul Newman’s North Carolina camp for chronically ill youngsters shows no signs of letup this month with another $500,000 pledged to support the facility. “That camp is absolutely gorgeous and provides everything a child could need, and it’s all free,” declared Beverly Gagne, president of SAFE FCU, Sumter, S.C. and one of the 150 North and South Carolina credit union executives who toured Newman’s Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randelman during “Credit Union Day.” The CU managers were among a throng of more than 2,500 corporate leaders from the two states who took part in the June 15-16 grand opening ceremonies of the camp, a facility getting media attention because of its link with its chief benefactors, the Richard Petty NASCAR family and Newman through his Connecticut-based Hole In the Wall Foundation. “With a race car theme everywhere you look, this camp is truly a magically empowering facility allowing youngsters with life threatening illnesses to imagine whoever they want to be for a week,” explained Steve Elam, executive director of the Carolinas Credit Union Foundation, which during the year topped a $500,000 drive to build two medical cabins for the Newman charity. The two cabins, which were to take their first campers June 20, have nameplates designating them as contributions of the North and South Carolina Leagues. Furthering the charity campaign, at its annual meeting in Pinehurst on June 17 – the same day as “Credit Union Day” – the North Carolina League adopted a resolution recommending the Foundation commit another $500,000 over the next year and half to support Victory Junction. It was uncertain if the funds would go toward more cabins or support operations. The board of the South Carolina League is to hear the $500,000 proposal Aug. 5. The Foundation did agree to pay for a $50,000 tram that carries visitors around the 70-acre campgrounds. It is expected the tram, which on June 16 carried the CU executives for the tour, will note that it is a CU contribution. The grand opening festivities had plenty of star power with Newman, as well as North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and NASCAR driver Kyle Petty in attendance at a VIP night June 15 joined by Elam of the Foundation. Larry Johnson, retired president/CEO of the North Carolina League also attended the event. A separate spiritual center, also financed by the Foundation, is to be erected in Johnson’s name and that of his wife in September or October at Victory Junction. Each of the medically-equipped cabins paid for by the Foundation costs about $250,000, and over the last year scores of CUs in the two states have conducted numerous fund-raising campaigns ranging from car washes and raffles, to boat sales and antique shows to support Victory Junction. “It’s really phenomenal what they’ve done at Victory Junction in 18 months to build that camp,” said Linda Weatherford, director of marketing and business development at SPC Cooperative CU in Hartsville, S.C. and who also took part in CU Day. A fashion show her CU conducted a year ago in a Hartsville college arts center to benefit Victory Junction was so successful “that we received support from the community for a special talent competition event Sept. 13 to once again benefit Victory Junction,” she said. The 2003 fashion show was called “Dressing for Victory” and featured local retailers contributing their merchandise. Many of the North Carolina executives traveled by car from Pinehurst following the annual League meeting while South Carolina executives converged on Randelman in vans to spend hours touring the facility. When he arrived at Victory Junction, Elam said he found spectacular a cafeteria “with two racing cars atop the ceiling with wheels spinning and being revved up every hour” plus a theater with a “chandelier made out of auto glass and the hood from 50 cars.” Cabin beds are made to look like cars. “It’s exciting that the credit union community in both states is part of such a worthy project,” Elam concluded. One director of the Carolinas Foundation, James McDaniel, president of Carolina Trust FCU in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said he was moved to tears when he saw the finished facility on the tour, adding “my command of the English language will not do justice to the magnitude of the camp itself.” The Myrtle Beach credit union itself raised more than $21,000 for the camp including the giveaway of a bass boat to anyone making a $10 donation. McDaniel noted that all the camp colors “are bright and cheerful” with “amazing computer facilities.” He said “all of us fell in love with the motorcycle-themed swimming pool. It really touches one’s heart to see how all these different entities came together to make this camp a reality.” -

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