“These kids get me,” a girl named Lauren said of her time at Camp Corral.
She shared an unfortunate commonality with many other camp attendees—having lost a parent in service of our country, Golden Corral President and Chief Executive Officer Lance Trenary explained.
“It’s an unbelievably humbling experience,” Trenary told Modern Restaurant Management magazine. “You hear these words and you can’t help but know this is a need and something we’re called to do.”
Camp Corral was founded in 2011 because founders of the buffet restaurant chain James Maynard and his daughter Easter Maynard felt the need to do more for those they serve.
“It’s part of our culture to give back and we have deep, continuing support for our military,” said Trenary.
The 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation provides a free one-of-a-kind summer camp for children of military service members. It has grown more than 700 percent to 21 camps in 19 states. Golden Corral has raised more than $5 million dollars and provided a “week of a lifetime” for more than 10,000 military children.
Various camp locations across the country volunteer to host Camp Corral and the organization partners with accredited YMCA and 4-H camps. Children ages eight to 15 of military service members or veterans are welcome to attend. While the camp is open to all children of military members or veterans, admission preference will be given to children who have had a parent or guardian injured, disabled or killed in service. Camp Corral offers a variety of activities such as boating, swimming, hiking, archery, kayaking, biking, fishing, ropes course and horseback riding. It also provides campers with a caring, nurturing and safe environment with military and family life counselors available at each site.
It’s good business, but it’s also the right thing to do.
“Our mission is to have a place where these children can have fun and connect with others going through the same thing,” said Camp Corral Chief Executive Officer Mary Beth Hernandez. “It’s a great time for them to get away and just be kids. The experience is helping transform the lives of these military families.”
Camp Corral recently named former University of North Carolina and retired NBA star Antawn Jamison as new spokesperson. The organization also announced a formal partnership with Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that will enable 1,000 children to attend the camps. It is expected 3,700 will attend this summer and Golden Corral hopes to grow that number to 5,000 within a few years.
It costs approximately $600 per camper. All expenses are covered except travel to and from the camps.
Trenary noted that the effort also serves as a way for employees to come together for a cause.
“Our employees really embrace Camp Corral. It’s a labor of love. I’m amazed at what they come up with and the creativity they show for fundraising.”
For Hernandez, it’s important to help promote corporate citizenship.
“It’s good business, but it’s also the right thing to do. A little goes a long way. I’m very proud of our team.”
Golden Corral’s annual fundraising campaign will run through June 19, with 100 percent of proceeds going to support Camp Corral. The restaurant is hoping to raise $1.6 million this year through donations collected from guests, social media platforms and as well as through the Golden Corral e-mail club. For additional information, visit www.campcorral.org.