CORBIN — By Bobbie Poynter / Times-Tribune Features Editor
Sisters Laura (9) and Jenna (8) Cooney could barely contain themselves as the car finally came to a stop at their familiar summer home at the KOA Kampground in Corbin. Energy abounding, the girls flitted like fairies, from one spot of interest to another. It was a beautiful sunny day and the girls just wanted to play. However, mom had other ideas.
In May 2010, Kendra Cooney and her husband Jerry poured their lives’ savings into a new family venture as owners of the Corbin KOA Kampground and its 26 acres of beautiful woodland just off the Cumberland Gap Parkway.
In October 2013, 44-year-old Jerry Cooney lost his year-long battle with cancer, leaving his wife and daughters to carry on. With her husband’s blessing and the support of her new KOA family, Kendra Cooney has stepped up and taken over the reins of the business.
Unlike her energetic daughters, Kendra Cooney had much more pressing business on her mind once she reached her destination.
First things first, check in with the campground’s winter managers, Butch and Linda Goulette, to see what still needs to be done to bring the campgrounds out of its winter hibernation.
There is so much that needs to be done. Cabins must be aired out with water and electricity checked, shrubbery and trees need to be clipped back to reduce the chance for fire hazards, the swimming pool needs to be cleaned, the dog park needs to be mowed, the store’s stock needs to be replenished in preparation for the insurgence of spring and summer campers . . . and more and more and more.
Kendra Cooney can’t wait to get started. Although there is still so much to be done, she personally greets her guests as they roll in, making sure their needs are immediately attended to.
Once the young girls have run off some their nearly-interminable energy, they pitch in to help their mother, learning the basics of running the store and helping to clean the cabins, of which visitors will be enticed by the fresh smell of a log cabin the minute they walk through the door.
Cooney is grooming her girls to one day take over the business.
“It’s important for the girls to learn the basics of the business and the value of teamwork, which will, in turn, help them grow to be healthy, independent women,” said Cooney.
KOA’s owner is currently a registered labor and delivery nurse at a Knoxville, Tenn., hospital and must commute back and forth every few days between her homes and jobs.
I started out here in Corbin,” she said. “Both of my girls attended Corbin Independent. It’s my hope that the success of the Corbin KOA Kampground will someday allow us to return to Corbin and plant our family’s roots.”
Cooney feels that it is very important that the local community understand that the Corbin KOA Kampground is more than just a resting place for long-distance travelers.
“You don’t have to travel a great distance to enjoy the fun of camping,” she explained. “We have a pool that is open to the public and a beautiful outdoor pavilion that families, clubs and organizations can use for their picnics, reunions or special occasions.
“The community is also welcome to join us during our numerous pool and crafts activities throughout the summer months, not to mention our holiday hayrides and free outdoor movie nights.”
As the owner of Corbin KOA Kampground, Cooney plans to keep the business’s close relationship with the community through its membership in the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and sponsorship of local school and organization fundraisers.
Soon, she hopes to utilize the campground’s full 26-acre potential and expand the campground all the way to Laurel Lake, with the addition of more cabins and campsites.
Kendra Cooney and daughters, Laura and Jenna, have begun a new chapter in their lives, and as their story continues, they invite the Tri-County community to join them on their new adventure.
Corbin KOA Kampground contact information
171 City Dam Road
Corbin, KY 40701
FACEBOOK: Corbin / Laurel Lake KOA