Glimpses of life at Camp Moss Hollow

John Kelly
Columnist July 22, 2013

“He thinks I’m gonna open the gate for him,” Sam Foy says as a deer ambles toward the swimming pool, empty, for once, of splashing children. “He’s sorely mistaken.”

It's been a broiling summer, says Sam, chief aquatics instructor at Camp Moss Hollow in Markham, Va. Thirsty, too. A family of deer has been hanging around the pool, even sneaking in to lap at the chlorinated water when there aren’t children in it and Sam’s back is turned.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

“Everything is hot,” Sam says. “But in the shade — or when there’s a breeze — things are bearable.”

Sometimes Sam leaves a tap running outside the fenced pool area so the deer can take a sip.

A day earlier, the air conditioning in the rotunda, where meals are eaten, conked out. Now, ceiling fans are whirring, and a counselor has been sent to town to buy some more electric fans.


ReNate Padmore of Forestville, Md., is Camp Moss Hollow's arts and crafts counselor. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)

An electrician fiddles with the unit. Soon, he has his diagnosis: The condensation drip line is clogged with brown marmorated stink bugs, those unwelcome interlopers that have been grossing people out up and down the East Coast. When the hundreds of bugs are removed, the air in the big, round dining room should start getting cool again.

Over in the camp office, David Russell is planning “Hollow Madness,” an evening of silly sports that will pit cabins against one another.

There will be an egg toss, of course. Another event involves campers passing a Hula Hoop over their bodies then on to the next team member without breaking the human chain.

Then there’s the shoe relay: Everyone’s shoes are piled in a big heap at one end of the basketball court. Campers have to race to the other end, find their shoes, put them on, then race back before the next teammate can sprint over to the sneakery heap.

David knows the older kids would be happy just to compete in regular sports, like basketball.

“I’m changing it so potentially little kids can win,” he says.

In the arts and crafts room, ReNate Padmore puts on a CD as she awaits the 12- to 14-year-old boys from the Deerhorn cabins. The room fills with the gentle sounds of James Blunt singing “You’re Beautiful.” It’s a pretty song, a little schmaltzy even, not exactly what you’d expect teenage boys to want to hear.

“That’s why I play it,” ReNate says. “I don’t want them to come in my class and hear things they’ve already heard.”

ReNate lives in Forestville. She’s been coming to Moss Hollow for 13 years, rising from an LT — leader in training — when she was 15 to the camp’s arts and crafts counselor this summer. She runs a tight ship. When the Deerhorn boys spill into the room and one rambunctious camper curses, she orders him back outside. He cools his heels for a few moments then returns, chastened.

Today she wants the boys to gently rub artist’s charcoal over construction paper that’s on top of leaves, revealing the detail in the ribs and veins beneath. ReNate, who studied at the Art Institute in Philadelphia, thinks the boys may never have used charcoal before, being more accustomed to crayons.

“I want to expose them to different areas of art, and bring nature into the classroom,” she says.

“I got an ugly leaf,” one boy complains. But as he rubs a length of charcoal over the blank paper a form is revealed: a leaf, emerging like a slowly developing photograph. A bit of nature, captured.

Send a kid to camp

Camp Moss Hollow is a summer camp in Fauquier County designed to give at-risk boys and girls from the Washington area a break from hot city streets. For more than 30 years, readers of The Washington Post have supported the camp and the good work that is done there.

This year’s campaign runs through Aug. 2. To donate, go to washingtonpost.com/camp and click where it says “Give Now.” Or send a check, payable to “Send a Kid to Camp,” to Send a Kid to Camp, Family Matters of Greater Washington, P.O. Box 200045, Pittsburgh, PA 15251-0045.

Now is the perfect time to give. A donor who wishes to remain anonymous is matching all gifts made between now and the campaign’s end.

Also, Clyde’s restaurant group is offering a tasty incentive: If you donate between $150 and $249 from now until the end of the campaign, you will receive a $25 gift certificate for Clyde’s. Donate $250 or more, and Clyde’s will give you one for $50. (Certificates will be sent in September.)

john.kelly@washpost.com

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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