With the days getting longer, the fireflies out and the thermometer hovering around 90 degrees, it can be hard to remember last winter. It’s not so hard for the people who are making sure Camp Moss Hollow is ready to accept its first campers Monday.
“However it was in Washington, you just double it out here,” said Tony Maynard, caretaker of the camp, of the crippling effects of storm after storm. “We’re basically in the mountains, in a heavy part of the woods. It was a task to just to get into the property with the roads and a lot of trees down.”
I reached Tony on the phone. He was at Moss Hollow, which is in Markham, Va., about a half-hour drive from his home in Front Royal. Tony’s been the camp’s full-time caretaker for seven years and oversees a crew of part-timers, including Bill Sharp, who make sure the camp is safe and inviting.
“They know every rock on the property,” said Roman Trotsyuk, facilities manager for Family Matters of Greater Washington, the charity that runs the camp.
Family Matters has five locations in the Washington area, including its headquarters on 16th Street NW. None of the facilities are as special as the camp. Sure, it has your typical HVAC, electrical and plumbing needs, but, said Roman, “it’s like a mini village there.” There are 32 buildings on its 400 acres, including cabins and a dining hall, not to mention a pond, a swimming pool, a playing field, a ropes course and hiking trails.
All of it took a pounding from Mother Nature.
“Obviously, with any kind of quantity of snow, there will be some roof leaks and drains being clogged,” Roman said. “I had a call at one point where the whole kitchen was flooded because the snow melted all at one time.”
The real danger, however, was the trees. Moss Hollow was in the process of removing dead trees, along with some that were perilously close to buildings, when the weight of snow sent a poplar crashing through the roof of the pavilion and art room. The roof and some of the structural supports needed to be replaced. A dozen cabins also got new roofs as part of regular maintenance.
As picturesque as the drifting snow might have been, Tony and his guys were happy to see the end of winter.
“Then we got into the monsoon season,” he said. “The rain has played havoc on us, with high water and winds and just a lot more rain than we’re used to.”
A new amphitheater has been in the works, but the muddy, mucky conditions mean it won’t be finished in time for the start of camp. For the first time, though, Moss Hollow has a tennis court. It’s ready to play host to budding Serenas and Venuses.
The swimming pool — every camper’s favorite — has passed its inspection. Brush has been cleared from the trails. Window screens and water lines in cabins are being checked. And mowers are running practically nonstop.
“We start mowing if we can in April,” Tony said. “We have a lot of acreage that we have to keep mowed. . . . It’s a beautiful place, but there’s lots of work to it behind the scenes.”
The curtain will rise Monday, when buses turn onto a gravel road, then enter the camp’s gates.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” Tony said. “I think Monday will be just like in past years I’ve been here. We’re gonna be ready. The kids will have a great summer.”
The generosity of Washington Post readers helps ensure that great summer. For nearly 40 years, your donations have kept Camp Moss Hollow running. This year, we’re hoping to raise $500,000 by July 11. To make a donation, go to www.familymattersdc.org. Or send a check, payable to “Send a Kid to Camp,” to Family Matters of Greater Washington, 1509 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036, Attention: Accounting Department.
Now is a great time to give because an anonymous donor is matching gifts up to a total of $100,000. What’s more, our friends at Clyde’s are providing gift certificates to their fine restaurants, including their many Clyde’s locations, the Hamilton, the Tombs or the Old Ebbitt Grill. If you donate between $200 and $299, you’ll receive a $25 gift certificate. Give $300 or more, and you’ll get a $50 gift certificate. (Certificates will be mailed in August.)
And head on over to Clyde’s today for the weekly Send a Kid to Camp special. Order the wild Alaska salmon Wednesday, and proceeds will benefit Moss Hollow.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.