KOA Care Camps is a nonprofit organization that’s been around for three decades, helping to send children with cancer to specialized oncology camps.
And while the charity was started by Kampgrounds of America (KOA) franchisees and is supported by Kampgrounds of America Inc., over the years it has expanded its focus — and today, it’s inviting the RV industry to come alongside and help out.
Care Camps Chairman Wade Elliott is coming to Elkhart, Ind., May 11 for the RV Industry Power Breakfast and to meet with leaders in the Elkhart-centric RV industry.
Elliott, chairman of the charity’s board and owner of Kingston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group, talked with Woodall’s Campground Management about Care Camps, its goals and his upcoming trip. WCM is a sister publication of RVBusiness.
WCM: For those who don’t know, what is KOA Care Camps?
Elliott: It was started by KOA franchisees 30 years ago, and we’ve raised more than $10 million. We don’t run the camps. They’re set up in the U.S. and Canada and run on their own, with 24,000 volunteer doctors, nurses and counselors helping these kids. But it’s expensive. They still have to rent the camps (usually an existing summer camp facility) and buy the food, and in some cases pay for the children to get there. It can cost an average of $1,500 a week to send a kid to one of these camps.
The camps come to us and ask for grant money; we’re in the business of raising money to help these camps.
We do it so that in all these camps, they don’t charge the family to send their kid to camp, and in many cases it’s not only the kids with cancer, it’s also their siblings, because many times, with a sibling with cancer, they’re the forgotten child. We want them to get to have a camp experience with their sibling.
WCM: How many camps do you support, and how many children are served?
Elliott: Last year the 129 camps we help support had over 41,000 kids in their camps. We gave about $1.5 million in grants. We need to grow that significantly. Care Camps is in a unique position in the camping, RV and outdoor recreation industry to connect them with a charity people care about. We have benefactors like the KOA Owners Association, KOA Inc., Texas Advertising and Southeast Publications, among others.
But this year we budgeted raising just under $1.7 million, and I’d like to see us go beyond that. What we’re looking to do is expand our neighborhood in the outdoor recreation space.
WCM: How are you planning to expand your donations?
Elliott: We’re talking to what we call the people in our neighborhood. We’re talking with folks at Thor Industries Inc., other big RV manufacturers like Forest River and suppliers like Lippert when I’m out for the RV Industry Power Breakfast. We’re involving as many people as we can who already think camping’s a good thing.
It’s a balancing act, because we want to make sure that as the founders, KOA franchisees are well represented and recognized, and we want to expand our reach. But we don’t want to partner with people who may not be true to the outdoor-recreation industry.
We’ve hired a couple of consultants to help get us in front of the right people in marketing our cause and helping us get set up so that if a company wants to do some internal fundraising for Care Camps, we can help enable that.
Millennials, especially, view social responsibility as an important issue as consumers and employees, and we think Care Camps is a great cause to support.
For more information on the charity, visit its website here.