b'BY JEFF CRIDERThe ONeills from left to right: Kirstan, Nelson, Kaylynn, Heather, Patrick, Megan and Maggie.Twin Lakes Revival Has Become aFamily Affair for The ONeill Family Patand Heather ONeill, owners of Camp studies, he said.Gulf in Destin, Fla., made a decision early on They helped me remodel a lake house,to homeschool their son and four daughters. Hunter explained. I installed half of the unitsBut five years ago, just as their children wood floor and they put down the rest bystartedmovingintotheirteenyears,the themselves. I showed them how to put theONeills made a strategic move that they clear coat down, and they did the rest them-hoped would provide all five of their children selves on that end, too. They take the ball andwith the skills they needed to become entre- run with it once you show them how to dopreneurs: They purchased Twin Lakes Camp something.Resort, a rundown membership campground The ONeills have not taken on the task ofnear DeFuniak Springs, and put their adoles- rebuilding Twin Lakes blindly. cent and teenage children to work improving For the past 24 years, they have operatedthe park. Camp Gulf, a 200-site RV resort in Destin thatfeaturesbeachfrontcampsites,a1,200-square-foot beach house and 20 cabins. PatONeill himself had to rebuild the campgroundthat later became Camp Gulf after the parkwas devastated by a hurricane in 1995. ONeill has also served on the boards ofthe Florida Association of RV Parks andCampgrounds and National Association ofRV Parks and Campgrounds, trade groupsthat provide extensive education and net-working opportunities for current and aspir-ing park operators.But while the ONeills obviously have ex-KK ONeill loves working with power tools. pertise in running a camping resort, they havemade a concerted effort to let their childrenThe ONeills also gave their children own- be the driving force behind Twin Lakes, whichership of the park, so they would have a they are gradually transforming into a glamp-vested interest in its future. Five years later, ing resort.their strategy is paying off. They see it in the We see this as a tremendous learninginitiative and in the pride of ownership that opportunity for them, ONeill said. their children have in the park, according to Their children, for their part, have seizedthe ONeills.the opportunity. All of them have learned howI would certainly recommend other parkoperators do this with their children, PatONeill said, noting how so many people com-plain these days about kids not having a goodwork ethic.I want my kids to learn how to think andproblem solve, he said of his children, whorange in age from 13 to 22. My hope is to in-still in them the ability to think for themselvesand to problem solve for themselves, so Idont have to do it for them.TheONeillschildreninitiallyworkedunder their own supervision, as well as thatof Patrick Hunter, a long-time Camp Gulfmanager and former contractor with 30 yearsof construction experience, who they reas-signed to Twin Lakes to help rebuild the park. Hunter, who previously managed a largeconstruction company, told Woodalls Camp-ground Management he had never workedwith homeschooled children before. Nelson ONeill cuts a piece of wood with a chopThe ONeill children started off helping us saw as his cousin, Justin, looks on.with basic things, but as they grew older andlearned more, it got to the point where any- to use construction equipment, from hand-thing we could show them, they would start held power tools to tractors, according todoing it, he said, adding, they ended up ONeill. being a crew that I could put the same kind While the ONeills hired an electrician toofresponsibilitiesonanddependonas do the wiring for their parks pedestals, theirgrown men who I was paying $30-an-hour to kids dug the trenches, laid water and sewerdo the same job. lines and electrical wiring throughout theAll five of the ONeill children are quick campground.Theygradedthedirt,then20 -February 2020 Woodalls Campground Management'