Nestled at the foothills of North Mountain in south central Pennsylvania lies an award-winning campground that’s home to a community of seasonal campers dedicated to supporting the children and families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Hershey.
For almost a decade, Dogwood Acres Campground has raised over $62,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hershey Medical Center through a triennial carnival and car show, annual 50/50 raffles and other smaller fundraisers, the Shippensburg News-Chronicle reported.
Proceeds from these fund-raisers at the campground are used to provide free accommodations at the Ronald McDonald House for parents with children undergoing treatment at Hershey.
While each camper cites varying reasons for supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities, all echo pride in their fund-raising efforts.
“When you see the people that benefit because of our efforts, that’s when it really hits you,” says seasonal camper Ann Calkins, Mechanicsburg.
Calkins attributes the decision to become a seasonal camper at Dogwood Acres five years ago to her desire to support the Ronald McDonald House.
“I was very impressed that a campground would do something like that,” she said.
Another seasonal camper, Pat Hogan, Carlisle, has a personal reason for supporting the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
“I had a child with cystic fibrosis that passed away in 1970, and there was no Ronald McDonald House,” she said. “There was no place to stay, besides a hotel. I would have appreciated what Ronald McDonald House has done for so many families. They provide close access to hospitals at no cost to the families.”
Hogan, a 10-year seasonal camper at Dogwood Acres, says the campground is “very family oriented” and that her fellow campers have become an “extended family.”
Seasonal campers have supported several different charities over the years (including Autism Speaks and the American Cancer Society), says Lucille Strub, who owns the campground with her husband, Charlie.
In 2003, the seasonal campers decided to raise funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
“They found it was a great cause,” Lucille said.
A moment of particular pride for the campers and Strub came in 2009, when the campground raised enough money to dedicate a bedroom with an honorary plaque at the recently-expanded Ronald McDonald House in Hershey.
To support the Ronald McDonald House, Dogwood Acres Campground hosts a benefit carnival, sale and car show every three years, since 2003.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Lucille says.
Much of the work to solicit donations and support is done throughout the year by the campground’s seasonal and weekend campers, she said.
This year more than $9,000 worth of office desks, computer desks and chairs were donated by a Staples distribution center in Hagerstown, Md. In addition, Lucille says, campers gathered gift certificates from area restaurants, golf courses, supermarkets, stores and shops.
“We cannot thank our seasonal campers enough,” Charlie said.
Saturday’s car show organized by Rachel Loy, a member of Cumberland Valley Classic Car Club, the Blue Moon Cruisers and Toys of Time Kruisers, showcased a bevy of automotive wonders.
Also featured were kids games, a bounce house and demonstrations by the Upper Frankford Township Fire Co. The auction kicked off after lunch, and was followed by performances from area musicians, including Mid-Life Crisis, Acoustic Juice, Lindsay and Lindsey and Benny Keck’s Latest Project.
Despite the overwhelming success of the carnival and car shows, Lucille says, “This year might be our last big carnival. Times are hard and people are not donating as much.”
Lucille and Charlie hope that Saturday’s carnival, auction and car show raised $13,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities – which would push the campground’s overall donation to $75,000.
In December 2010, Dogwood Acres Campground was awarded the 2010-11 Park of the Year Award from the National Association for RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC) in part because of its charitable contributions to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The “Park of the Year” award is the highest honor given to campgrounds, RV parks and resorts.
This year, the campground received a rating of 5 out of 5 by Woodall’s.