The three-year-old Tents for Troops program started by campground owner Charlie Curry has topped 200 members in 39 states, but Curry is far from satisfied.
“I want to sign up 50 more campgrounds during or after the upcoming ARVC (National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) Show in Las Vegas,” Curry told Woodall’s Campground Management.
“Last year, we signed up 40 at the ARVC show,” he said, so the latest goal appears to be reasonable. “It’s our big annual push,” he added.
Since signing up the first 10 parks at the 2010 ARVC show, Curry has sold the concept of providing free campsites to active military members to an ever-expanding audience.
“I’ve always been a big fan of veterans and active duty personnel,” said Curry, 55. Not a veteran himself, Curry said he was inspired by the Australian rock band he once managed whose members wrote a song in honor of American soldiers. “They said we feel we owe our freedom to American troops,” Curry related.
From there, he developed the program on a shoe string budget and a lot of goodwill.
“This is not any type of endorsement for war, just my way of showing appreciation for what these people do for our country. It is my way of thanking them for our freedom,” Curry said in the summer of 2010 when he kicked off the program at his own campground. “This is to all our friends, customers and future friends.”
His sales pitch to prospective campgrounds is fairly simple.
“If someone wants to do this, they need to want to do it from the heart,” he said.
“Beyond that, it doesn’t cost the park anything. Our program is based on vacant sites. We ask for a minimum of two nights (free of charge) and 75% of the campgrounds do that,” he said. The rest often offer more.
He’s heard many stories where parks hosted active military who brought along multiple, non-military, paying guests, who in turn returned on several occasions. The good deed left campground owners with a good feeling in their heart and in many cases generated real business later on.
Curry’s campground, Toutle River RV Resort in southwest Washington, hosts several military campers every weekend.
Most parks don’t get overwhelmed with the program, he said, but those that promote it “get loads of military guests.” A lot of participating campgrounds put the Tents for Troops logo on their website.
Ironically, the program has little to do with “tents,” as a very small percentage of military campers do so in tents, he said. Most come in RVs, and many of the active military own their own RVs.
He wants to create a network of RVs that military who do not own or have access to an RV could use for free.
in 2013, Curry hopes to visit military bases across the U.S. and promote the program. He is working with the Department of Defense to get clearance, he said.
For more information visit www.tentsfortroops.org.