Sewing Bears of Encouragement

Can you find Joy in all of these bears? Joy Whitmore crafted 35 bears by hand to send to Victory Junction, a camp for kids with special needs in North Carolina. The NASCAR-themed bears will serve as welcome gifts.

By Matthew Hilliard

How many of us know someone who has said, “I am gonna hate aging. I won’t be able to do the things I love anymore or make any meaningful impact on anyone’s life, or even my own for that matter.” I can tell you firsthand that it does not matter if you are eight or 80 years old; if there is something you want to achieve and have the positive outlook to see it through, then there is nothing you cannot do. Victory Junction and Joy Whitmore are both proof of that.

Victory Junction is an organization founded by the Petty family of NASCAR fame, in Randelman, NC, where children with chronic disabilities can attend camp and do things they never dreamed they would be capable of doing. Kids who live their lives attached to machines, in the seat of a wheelchair, or spending most of their time in a hospital bed are able to soar on a zip line, practice archery, complete obstacle courses and much more. It is a place where people facing various obstacles can see that they are still able to be independent and have the potential to keep those obstacles from becoming barriers.

One thing that makes Victory Junction special is the NASCAR-themed teddy bear that is given to each camper who enters the gates of the camp. Volunteers from all over the country sew these teddy bears with an abundance of love and care.

Joy Whitmore, an 88-year-old member of Advent Christian Village, is someone I admire and love very much. One of her lifelong hobbies is sewing, and when she heard about Victory Junction’s souvenir teddy bears, she couldn’t wait to become a part of the cause. I have been a camper at Victory Junction for six consecutive summers, and I can assure you, something as simple as these stuffed bears impacts the life of every child who comes to camp.

Joy has sewn 35 bears to donate to Victory Junction and has committed to sewing more. So for those of you that have the attitude of “older people can’t make any meaningful impact in the lives of others,” Joy will prove you wrong in a matter of seconds, when campers walk or roll into their cabins this Summer and see their very own handmade teddy bear waiting for them.

Victory Junction’s slogan is “Feel your heart race!” And now Joy Whitmore has joined the pit crew that makes the racing happen.

To learn more about Victory Junction’s camps for children, please visit www.victoryjunction.org.

About the author: Matthew Hilliard is a freshman at Suwannee High School in Live Oak, Florida, living with spina-bifida. He is a member of the SHS golf team and enjoys playing basketball and participating with the youth fellowship at The Village Church in Dowling Park. Matthew credits Victory Junction and Advent Christian Village with boosting his self-esteem and motivating him to race toward unimaginable goals.
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