b'KEY PEOPLE BY JEFF CRIDERJennifer Mercer Works to Build Support for Care Camps as 1st Director of DevelopmentFew things are more devastating to first director of development. Her pri- ners,includingthePennsylvaniaparents than to learn that their child has mary responsibility is to increase its CampgroundOwnersAssociationa life-threatening malady like cancer. fundraisingeffortstosupportchild- (PCOA), which was the first state camp-Over the past 35 years, Kampgrounds hood cancer camps across the U.S. and groundassociationtoadoptCareof America Inc. (KOA) Care Camps has Canada. Camps as its official cause. PCOA hasestablished itself as the campground in- As the programming and number of launched an effort to encourage everydustryslargestcoordinatedeffortto camps have expanded, this dedicated campgroundinPennsylvaniatodoraise money for children and their fam- group of supporters recognized that the fundraisers to support Care Camps.ilies to attend oncology camps, where financial need of this cause had grown TheRVindustryhasalsojoinedspeciallytrainedmedicalstaffand beyond what they could meet as volun- forces to support the Care Camps cause.counselorsprovideprogrammingto teers, Mercer said. What they have ac- Elkhart,Ind.-basedForestRiverhashelp kids learn to cope with the emo- complished has been incredible, and made a commitment to donate $1 mil-tional trauma they experience as a re- their continued dedication to helping lion to Care Camps over a five-year pe-sult of a cancer diagnosis. these kids is changing lives every day. riodstartingin2019,withplanstoThese cancer camps are not held at Inordertomoreeffectivelyreach continue long after that initial commit-KOA campgrounds, although KOAs cor- new industry partners, the organization ment.Dometic,THOR,Winnebago,porate-owned campgrounds and KOA approved a dual branding strategy to and many other industry leaders havefranchiseesarethelargestgroupof allow the removal of KOA from the been supporting Care Camps for severaldonorstothe charitys name when working outside years, and new partners such as RDOcharity. Since in- the KOA system. Equipment, Level 5 Marketing, Battleception,Care Indeed, even though Care Camps se- Born Batteries, and RV dealers, like RVCampshas cured $1.8 million in donations in 2019, Care, have joined the cause in the lastraised more than Mercer said the estimates for the real few months.$16millionfor need are at least triple that amount. Mercerisplanningtomeetwith wards healing the entire family, along139oncology Roughly 18,000 children are diagnosed many other camping and outdoor in- withadditionaleventsoutsideofthecampsacross with cancer each year in the U.S. and dustry leaders across the country in the once-a-year summer camp experience.NorthAmerica, Canada. Mercers biggest challenge is to years to come, sharing her passion for Today,shesaid,improvedcancerincluding17in convince other campground operators the kids impacted by cancer and ex- treatments are allowing for greater qual-Jennifer Mercer Canada, and the and outdoor industry leaders to get in- plaining the need for more funding. ity of life for kids impacted by the disease,majority of that volved. Research has shown that childhood allowing them to attend camp when pre-funding has come directly from the col- But with only seven months on the cancer impacts the mental and physical viously it would not have been possible.laborative efforts of the KOA team. job at the time of this writing, she has health of the entire family, especially sib- Improved treatments are also leading toIn August 2019, the board of direc- found tremendous teamwork from vol- lings and parents, Mercer said, adding, more children surviving their cancer di-tors of KOA Care Camps hired Jennifer unteers across the nation, leading to This knowledge has led to increased agnoses. Each of these kids, along withMerceras the non-profit organizations support from several new industry part- programming at the camps directed to- theirfamily,haveenduredincredible16 -May 2020Woodalls Campground Management'