After almost 20 years and $5 million donated to camping for children with cancer, KOA’s Care Camps program executives have decided it’s time to take it up a notch.
As reported by Woodall’s Campground Management, Care Camps board member Wade Elliott said a marketing company was invited to the February board meeting for discussions about “further refining and defining ourselves, and helping us find where we should be.”
That entails setting new goals and “re-energizing” the whole program, said Mike Gast, vice president of communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA). “We want to pay more attention to it than we were able to do,” he explained. “It’s been averaging $500,000 a year that we’ve raised for Care Camps and it’s been on a steady climb, and we just want to keep that going.”
There are three audiences KOA and the Care Camps board need to connect with, he said. The first is campground owners. “We have new owners that are buying campgrounds all the time, so it’s a constant re-education process” to bring those new owners into the loop.
Next are the directors of the Care Camps themselves. “These independent cancer camps put in requests for funding and we try our best to raise it. We have to stay in better contact with them in order to gauge their needs and make sure they’re getting what they need to operate the camps so the kids don’t have to pay anything.”
The third group with perhaps the most untapped potential, Gast said, is KOA campers. “We need to educate our campers about Care Camps and help them establish an emotional attachment with these kids and what we’re raising the money for,” he said.
One effective way to do that is the Come Camp & Care With Us annual event held each May at participating campgrounds, also called “The Big Weekend.” Campers who stay as paying guests on Friday night get Saturday night for free. Gast said it’s a “huge kickoff to the camping season” for all the campgrounds, but it’s also the largest single fundraiser event for Care Camps. This year’s event takes place May 10-11.
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