The Good Sam Club got its start back in 1966 when a small Southern California magazine, Trail-R-News, published a letter from a subscriber that recommended distributing decals to trustworthy RVers willing to offer assistance to fellow RVers. The publisher liked the idea and came up with the name the Good Sam Club, based on the parable of the Good Samaritan who helped a traveler in need. Bumper stickers were printed, the Good Sam got his now familiar halo and wide grin.
In 1968 the Club’s first regional Chapter, the Ute Salt Shakers of Utah, was chartered. Hundreds of chapters soon followed allowing members to enjoy the camaraderie of group RV outings while making a difference by volunteering on service projects. In 1974 Good Sam honored the first Chapter of the Year, Northern California’s SAC Sams for its outstanding volunteer efforts.
In 1969, the Club’s first Directors were elected to guide members to local chapters and host regional events known as Samborees, now called Rallies. The Club now has Directors in nearly every state and province. By the mid-1980’s Good Sam had grown to 400,000 members. In 2000, membership surpassed one million, and today 1.3 million members belong to the club.
The Trailer Life Directory, created in 1972, is still the Club’s official campground directory identifying and rating more than 11,700 RV parks. In 2013, the Trailer Life and Woodall directories united to form a new “super directory” utilizing Trailer Life’s rating system plus enhancements from Woodall’s equally esteemed campground guides.
Good Sam offered the first legislative parking kit in 1974 to help fight anti-RV parking ordinances. Since then, the Club has influenced local, state and national legislation on RV issues ranging from parking rights to outdoor recreation on public lands.
Good Sam started offering RV insurance in the ‘70s, launched its RV Tours and Caraventures program and in 1984 the Club’s popular Roadside Assistance program was launched, followed by other programs from RV financing to extended RV service to mail-forwarding, all aimed at making life on the road safer and more enjoyable.
In 1980, Dogs for the Deaf, now Dogs for Better Lives, became the Club’s official charity. Over the years, Good Sam Chapters have raised so much money in support of Dogs for the Deaf that the Club is now the charity’s largest single donor group. Good Sam Chapters have raised money for many other
worthy causes and volunteered for programs ranging from Adopt-a-Park to Adopt-a-Highway. Since 1996, Chapters have helped during Good Sam’s Annual Cleanup Days, tidying up North America’s public lands.
The first Action Line letter appeared In 1981, with Good Sam acting as a third-party mediator to help settle consumer disputes. Now, almost four decades later, Action Line has petitioned businesses on behalf of tens of thousands of members to help resolve their differences.
Good Sam has answered members’ technical questions in the pages of Highways magazine since 1989. In 1992, renowned RV expert Bob Livingston took over the Q&A column, named it Tech Topics, and developed it into one of the most comprehensive technical advice forums found in any RV magazine.
In late 2010, Camping World Chairman, Marcus Lemonis, became CEO of Affinity Group, Inc., owners of Good Sam, and renamed the company Good Sam Enterprises. Lemonis is also a co-founder of Freedom Roads, a network of RV dealerships affiliated with Camping World. In 2011, Good Sam Enterprises moved its headquarters to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Camping World was founded in 1966. At the end of 2011, the company combined the Good Sam Club and Camping World President’s Club under the Good Sam name, giving the 1.3 million members the best of both Clubs, including discounts at Camping World and Good Sam RV parks and the convenience of a single membership card.
After over 50 years, the Good Sam Club is now the world’s largest organization of RV owners and one of the most recognizable brands in North America. The Club not only unites with Camping World to provide substantial member savings, it partners with Pilot Flying J to offer fuel discounts and with NASCAR events and drivers to promote the Good Sam name.
Although Good Sam has experienced tremendous growth during the past 50 years, at least one thing has remained constant-the Club’s role as a Good Samaritan. In a meeting with state/provincial Directors in late 2011, Lemonis stated that his goal is to return to the roots of the Club, raising the bar on community service and volunteerism and making Good Sam one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. Times have definitely changed since 1966, but Good Sam continues to embrace the Club’s original spirit of helping others.