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Friday, May 2, 2008

Petty's Visit Disabled Vets

Richard and Kyle Petty cheer up paralyzed vets

RICHMOND, Va. (AP)—The smiles on the faces of the veterans in wheelchairs were unmistakably broad Thursday as they posed for pictures with NASCAR icon Richard Petty.

But the smiles coming from “The King” and son Kyle Petty were just as wide as the two leaders of Petty Enterprises paid a visit to McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“It’s funny how every story you hear always ends on a high note,” Kyle Petty said as he signed autographs and posed for pictures with giddy patients, doctors, nurses and physical therapists. “They’re always overcoming something— `I made it over that mountain.’

“It’s not the type of story where you look at a guy and you feel sorry for him … because they don’t feel sorry for themselves, and they don’t want you to feel sorry for them.”

The stories, he said, invariably are motivational.

Richard Petty, a seven-time champion in NASCAR’s premier series and still probably the most famous face in stock car racing, has made several visits to the hospital in suburban Richmond, and the team announced last November that Paralyzed Veterans of America will serve as the primary sponsor for Kyle Petty’s No. 45 Dodge for two Sprint Cup races this season.

The first comes Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. While Richard Petty joked that he’s been trying for a long time to get PVA to get involved with racing, Randy Pleva, the national president of the organization, said the thanks surely go both ways.

“For them to take their time out to come out and visit with the guys here and the women, it’s fantastic,” Pleva said. “But, you know, they don’t see it that way. The Pettys don’t. They do it because they want to and that’s why PVA got involved with them. They care.”

Pleva said besides the car sponsorship, the arrangement PVA has with the Pettys includes the use of public service announcements taped by Richard Petty to help boost exposure.

“We’ve been around 62 years and hardly no one knows who PVA is,” Pleva said.

Besides mingling with the veterans on an outdoor pavilion where a hot lunch was being served, Richard and Kyle Petty also went inside to see those stuck in their rooms.

“It makes me feel good that I can generate some happiness for some other people because I’m a pretty happy guy,” Richard Petty said. “These are the people that let us go do what we want to do. We can go play, fish, go swimming or run a race car, do our own business on a day-to-day basis and not really worry about the real world that these guys had to go out in.

“This is our way of saying thank you.”

On the Net:

Paralyzed Veterans of America: www.pva.org