Marcus Lemonis

A personal $25,000 donation from Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Camping World Inc. and Good Sam Enterprises LLC, helped kick off a new fundraising campaign launched earlier this week aimed at helping pay off the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Inc.’s bank loans on the RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum in Elkhart, Ind.

The goal is to raise $100,000 in voluntary contributions by Aug. 31, all of which is to be matched by the Robert “Boots” Ingram family, which has put up a $100,000 challenge grant for the purpose of lowering the Hall’s debt to 1st Source Bank by $200,000.

“After seeing the information on what the Ingram family did and the attempt to pay down the bank – and knowing that the Ingram donation was really a match, not a guarantee from what I understand – yesterday (May 9) I made a contribution of $25,000 in the hope that other people will fill the gap and put this issue to rest,” said Lemonis, whose 5,000-employee, privately held firm based in Lincolnshire, Ill., operates 78 RV dealerships and 93 Camping World parts and accessories stores.

“You know,” he told RVBUSINESS.com, “they’re not asking for a lot, this organization (the Hall of Fame) that we’ve talked about in the past, and we need to know that it survives. It was as simple as that for me. I made a commitment a year and a half ago to do something, and this is a good gesture to ensure that other people feel the same level of responsibility.”

RV/MH Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame President Darryl Searer, a former inductee appointed to his new post in March, says the Lemonis donation should help expedite the debt-reduction drive and give the Hall a leg up in reaching its stated goal.

“We need to reach the goal by the end of August to match the Ingram’s $100,000,” reported Searer. “And this is certainly a great start towards that, and I really appreciate the fact that Marcus Lemonis has stepped up to be the first significant donor toward meeting that goal. We’re 25% of the way there, as of now.”

Searer, chairman of Elkhart, Ind.-based Ultra-Fab Products Inc., reports that things are going well. “Yes, phenomenal is the best way to put it,” said Searer. “The people who are coming forward and offering assistance have just been more than I could expect.”

Upgrading the website has been a major priority for Searer, a former Hall treasurer and board member who has a “lengthy list” of things he wants to do this year in taking over the reins at the Hall, which houses a museum and library as well as rental facilities. That list includes “meetings with the mayor, newspapers and county officials.”

Meanwhile, Searer said he was pleased to have received a donation of 20 tables and 200 chairs from Elkhart’s Matterhorn Conference Center Banquets Catering, which provides catering services. The Hall of Fame previously had to arrange for rental tables and chairs for events held at the north side Elkhart shrine to the locally based recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries.

Tax-deductible gifts, adds Searer, may be made by mail, in person at the Hall, by phone at (800) 378-8694, or through www.rvmhhalloffame.org.