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Could someone you know use $2,100 for utilities? Would cash for car or mortgage payments be a welcome relief for someone you know?

You can make that person’s day with a nomination in Pigeon Forge’s “Taking Vacation Back” campaign. The gateway city to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is offering cash and travel packages ranging from $2,100 in May to $15,000 in July.

The July prize is to help one deserving family win big bucks for a year’s worth of mortgage or rent payments.

All winners – and the people who nominate them – also receive a two-night/three-day stay in Pigeon Forge, home of the Dollywood theme park.

“The past two years have been extremely tough on families, and we know many families have made sacrifices,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “The family vacation is something we don’t want to see anyone give up. Vacations are much-needed getaways that create life-long memories.”

“Taking Vacation Back” began in April when more than 200 family stories were told at Through online voting that month, 20 families won $100 gas cards and a trip to Pigeon Forge, and those who nominated the winners earned identical trips.

Prizes get progressively larger:

  • In May, 10 families will win $2,100 for utility payments.
  • In June, five families will win $6,600 for car payments.
  • In July, one family will win $15,000 for mortgage or rent payments.

In 2006, Pigeon Forge conducted a similar outreach campaign by giving away a tanker truckload of gas in response to unexpected jumps in gasoline prices.

“Our 'Great Gas Giveaway’ was a way to offer random acts of kindness – in the form of gas cards – to area visitors,” Downey recalled. “We hope 'Taking Vacation Back’ will spotlight worthy recipients in communities nationwide.”

Participation in “Taking Vacation Back” is easy. The nomination process requires two clicks at, as well as a 100-word essay. Monthly winners are determined by votes from visitors to the Web site.

“The stories we have seen are amazing and inspiring,” Downey said. “From job loss and health issues to returning military members seeking to assimilate back into the community, the stories of need are everywhere around us.”


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