First Person: Why One Hotel Guest Didn’t Have to Pay a Dime

Wounded veteran Rob Jones biked 5,200 miles to raise money for the charities that helped him. Here's how hotels across America came together to make that dream come true.

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Tina, Dawn, Lee and I became four ladies, from four different states, committed to get Rob a comfortable bed every night and share his story with the nation.
Tina, Dawn, Lee and I became four ladies, from four different states, committed to making sure that Rob had a comfortable bed every night.

Joining the Rob Jones Team

From that day on, I was honored to join his small volunteer team. I reached out to Lee, a director at DoubleTree, who also jumped on board.

Tina, Dawn, Lee and I became four ladies, from four different states, committed to get Rob a comfortable bed every night and share his story with the nation.

Every day over the next four months, we flooded the media with press releases, and mapped his route for potential hotels. We tried to plan several days to a week ahead. He rode 30-40 miles per day, but that could vary based on the weather and terrain so changes were constant.

I’m proud to say that every day of those 120 days, with the exception of just a handful, we were able to secure Rob and Steve a place to sleep. I found many hotels, motels and B&B’s were generous, including Marriott’s, Holiday Inn’s and independents. However, there were plenty of places, mostly small motels or B&Bs, who hung up on me and told me to never call again trying to scam them out of a free room.

There were several times when every lodging option in the area said no.

It was a challenge to secure lodging in the many small towns Rob rode through in Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. There were several times when every lodging option in the area said no. It seemed to happen on the coldest nights. Then I’d hear the great news that anonymous angels, including Tina, had paid for rooms when a comp wasn’t available.

It was much easier once he reached California where there were Hilton hotels at nearly every stop. Every Hilton hotel (yes, every single one) we asked opened their doors and hearts to Rob. I asked them to roll out the red carpet, and many had welcome receptions and helped him with anything he needed from a bike tune up to a hot meal.

During his trip, he stayed at over a dozen DoubleTree hotels, many of who had much better success than I did at throwing welcome parties (and more time to plan and promote them). With the help of Lee Hambrick and Anne Thompson DoubleTree became Rob’s official corporate sponsor and DoubleTree hotels around the world held fundraisers. The hotels did everything from bake sales, to car washes, to jean days to raise money for Rob’s cause.

Although more often than not we didn’t hear back from media, celebrities or businesses, there were a lot of successes. Many times school children would line the streets to cheer him on, and dozens of people brought their bikes out and rode alongside Rob.

It took months, but we finally got our wish of a major news outlet covering the story when the Today Show featured Rob’s story. Along with the many people who donated money or helped by tuning up Rob’s bike, O’Reilly Auto Parts donated a $500 gift card for U-Haul maintenance.

Veteran Rob Jones, biking across America.
In April, four months after I’d met Rob in Missouri, I flew out to San Diego to cheer him on as he crossed the finish line at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

Crossing the Finish Line

In April, four months after I’d met Rob in Missouri, I flew out to San Diego to cheer him on as he crossed the finish line at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. I was able to meet Rob’s parents and the ladies I’d been talking to every day. There were many celebrations, including Rob throwing out the first pitch at the Padres game, and a spectacular end-of-the-ride party at the Mission Valley DoubleTree.

Rob raised $126,000 for the veteran charities who helped him recover. I’m sharing all this now because Rob has a new goal.

I’m sharing all this now because Rob has a new goal.

Month of Marathons

Rob is now planning to run 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 different cities. He is again raising awareness for veterans and is still working toward his $1 million goal for veteran charities. It is truly incredible to me that for this man, giving his legs for our freedom was not enough. He continues to give to others, even when he has already paid a price most of us can’t even imagine.

I think I know where Rob gets his big heart. A couple years after the end of Rob’s ride I got a call from his dad, Lenny. Lenny said they were coming to Missouri to visit family. I said, “Oh, that’s great. I’ll be happy to see if I can get a hotel discount for you.”

He laughed and said, “No, no, no, Dee. That’s not why I’m calling. We’re coming for Thanksgiving and I want to invite you to Thanksgiving with us.” What a great guy.

I’m excited to follow Rob on his new journey. Please follow him as well, and help him reach his goal. I promise he will inspire you, just as he inspired me. Whatever challenge you are facing, use Rob’s motto to Survive, Recover, Live.

Please help my all-time favorite hotel guest, friend and American hero Rob Jones

Here are a few videos about Rob: Bike Video Climb (narrated by Gary Sinise of Forrest Gump), Month of Marathons Promo Video

Author Bio: Dee King is a hotel sales director in Springfield, MO. She enjoys meeting people from around the world and making them feel welcome. She has been in the hotel sales industry for 9 years.