Parents camp out to sign up kids for summer camp

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Most parents know the summer camp rush, get ’em signed up quickly or run the risk of the camp filling up. But there is one camp in Rio Rancho that’s so popular, parents camp out for days ahead of time.

Haynes Park in Rio Rancho becomes a campground for grown-ups a couple days before summer camp registration.

There are dozens of tents there, some since Thursday morning, all to sign up their kids for summer camp on Saturday.

Inside the dozens of tents are dedicated parents, determined to sign up their kids and get a limited slot for Kamp Rio summer camp Saturday.

“This is our living room, and we sleep in the tent,” one parent said as they showed News 13 around their setup.

“It’s worth camping out, it’s very worth it,” said Gage Toepper, a 10-year-old that camps out with his parents. “It’s really important to us because there’s not a lot of options for parents in Rio Rancho or Albuquerque,” said Nina Toepper, Gage’s mom.

“We’re devoted parents,” said Kim Gensler. “There’s only limited spots and we’re going to make sure our kids get in.”

The tents lay claim to their spot in line, and it’s first come first serve for registration. Parents said the program, which holds roughly 100 kids at three locations, is affordable, and their kids love it.

Photos: Rio Rancho parents camp out for kids

The die-hards of the group, the people that are first in line, have actually been there since 9 a.m. on Thursday, and they’ve come fully prepared, stocked with blankets, food, a heater, even a generator to charge their phones.

“We make the hubbies take care of the kids and just kind of have girl time for a couple of days so it’s kind of nice,” said Sammie Rivera.

Some families have made a tradition out of it. While the kids are in school, mom and dad hold their spot in line. “My wife and I, we tag-team, she does most of the stuff during the day while I try to get some work done and then at night I come out and take over and do the sleeping in the cold weather,” said Don Dulac.

“It is worth it, it’s a good deal and they do an excellent job with the children with the activities they have,” added Dulac.

Though most people said they make the best of it, some wish there was a different way to get their kids into the camp. “I had to take a day off of work to do this and there are other things I’d rather be doing than sleeping in a park overnight,” said Sylvia Serna. “If I don’t spend the night here in the park, spend 24 hours trying to get a spot here then I have no where else for him (her son) to go.”

But just about everyone at the park agreed, it’s worth it. “It’s unbelievably affordable,” said Nina Toepper.

“At first I was kind of like, oh, what a drag, and now I’m out here and it’s not so bad to spend your day off and meet new people and you know, it’s for the kids,” explained Tommy Sanchez. “You know so many times kids don’t have anything to do in the summer time and that’s when problems start, so you keep them here swimming and active and stuff, it should be a good summer for him.”

“If I’m not at Kamp Rio I’m just sitting on the couch, just watching TV, like, ‘nope’,” said Gage.

Rio Rancho’s Parks and Rec officials told KRQE News 13 it’s listened to feedback and most parents say they like this method for registration because it rewards the families that care the most, and most people enjoy camping out.

The city has considered a lottery, but some parents complained, saying that takes the control out of their hands.

Registration starts Saturday at 7 a.m. It’s $77 per child, per week, which averages out to about $1.50 an hour. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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