From impresario to philanthropist

An entrepreneur who once ran Bruce Willis' night club turns to a new pursuit: helping sick kids

By Fawn Fitter, FSB contributor

(FSB Magazine) -- Rob Cronin walked out of his doctor's office and into the church next door. Reeling from the news that he had cancer, he knelt in a pew and made a deal with the Divine: "Let me live," he prayed, "and I'll pay it back."

Two years later, in 1999, his cancer in remission, Cronin kept his promise. Before his illness, he had run actor Bruce Willis's restaurant and night club in Sun Valley, Idaho. Now he was opening Zou 75, serving French/Asian cuisine in a former saloon. He planned to use the grand opening as a benefit for a local charity, but wasn't sure which one. A friend mentioned that Camp Rainbow Gold (, a weeklong summer camp for kids with cancer in the nearby town of Twin Falls, was $7,000 short on the rent for a campground the following year. Cronin's benefit met the shortfall, but he decided a single contribution wasn't enough. He also joined the camp's board of directors and volunteered as a counselor that August.

Cronin estimates that he has dedicated at least 10,000 hours to Camp Rainbow Gold over the past eight years. He serves as either camp director or assistant director when camp is in session. (This year's camp is slated for Aug. 5 to 10.) The rest of the year he and wife Kris, an event planner, use their business skills to raise money and organize new features such as the rented horses that campers will ride this summer.

Thanks to Cronin, 40, the formerly failing camp now has a $1.4 million endowment. This spring Camp Rainbow Gold awarded five $5,000 college scholarships to former campers with good grades and extracurricular activities. In June the camp offered its first family weekend for parents and siblings of campers. Cronin is planning an additional weeklong camp next year for young adults over 16, all at no cost to campers. He has also acquired a real estate license, in part to help the camp buy property so that it can operate all summer long. Eventually he hopes to give up both real estate and his profitable restaurant in order to make Camp Rainbow Gold his focus. "In ten years," he says, "I see myself living at the camp and running it year-round, just kicking back and enjoying mountain living."  Top of page

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