Tents for Troops Membership Nears 70
Charlie Curry has been offering free camping at his RV park in Castle Rock, Wash., to active military personnel for about three years, and now he's recruiting other parks to do the same, the Longview Daily News reported.
Curry founded "Tents for Troops" in mid-2010 with the hope of having RV parks available across the country where military personnel and their immediate families can stay free of charge. To participate, the nonprofit asks park operators to donate "two sites for two nights."
"It's a very small way of saying ‘thank you' for all of their hard work and sacrifices," said Curry, the owner of Toutle River RV Resort just north of Castle Rock. "They're the ones who give so much to ensure our freedom and safety around the world."
Curry has enlisted the help of Lucas Karn, 22, to keep adding to the roster of free campsites. So far, there are about 70 RV parks in 30 states participating. Karn recently signed up 10 new parks from Colorado to New Hampshire to Alaska.
"Hopefully by summer we'll have parks in all 50 states," Karn said.
Karn said Tents for Troops is working with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) to bring in more participants.
"They have a lot of meetings in each state, so we've been sending out correspondence at that level," he said.
A Tents for Troops road trip is planned for this fall across the country, with stops at both campgrounds and military bases to spread the word.
"We're also asking people to help us by using social networking like Facebook and Twitter," Karn said.
To use a Tents for Troops RV campground for free, active military personnel must provide proof of their active status. Reservations are required.
There are no contracts or fees for RV parks and campgrounds to be a part of Tents for Troops. They are asked to minimize "blackout" periods and try their best to accommodate the "two sites for two nights."
"They can block out Labor Day or Memorial Day or when their town has a big celebration, but for the most part, the parks have been extremely generous," Curry said. "A lot of them say, ‘What else can we do? What extras can we throw in?'"
He said most RV parks can well afford to donate a couple of sites for free because the soldier, Marine or sailor often brings along his or her extended family. Camping fees range anywhere from $10 to more than $50 per night at some parks.
"We had one customer here two years ago and he stayed one night, then he called his dad, and before they left, we had three or four sites full, and just one of them was the free military one," Curry said.
With 14,000 privately owned RV parks across the nation, Tents for Troops hopes to have 2,500 on board within five years.
"We're looking to target really enjoyable parks, especially ones where people can have a nice vacation with their kids," Karn said.
For more information, call Karn at (360) 274-7915 or go to www.tentsfortroops.org.