John Kelly Kicks Off Send a Kid to Camp Campaign for Camp Moss Hollow

Camp Moss Hollow caters to kids who haven't seen a lake, who haven't roasted marshmallows over an open fire, who haven't camped under the stars.
Camp Moss Hollow caters to kids who haven't seen a lake, who haven't roasted marshmallows over an open fire, who haven't camped under the stars. (Courtesy Of Family Matters Of Greater Washington)
By John Kelly
Monday, June 1, 2009

I once went to a summer camp fair at an upscale area shopping mall. Representatives from various camps set up their displays in the mall's atrium. Strapping counselors in embroidered polo shirts handed out brochures beneath displays decorated with canoe paddles and kayaks.

One exhibit made a particular impression. It was for a five-week camp offering fly-fishing in Maine.

How fortunate, I thought, that we live in a world where parents can send their 11-year-old sons and daughters to the Pine Tree State for a summer of fly fishing.

I don't mean to be dismissive. Or socialist. I'm sure it was a really good camp, and I bet all but the most agoraphobic kids would have a great time there. But I couldn't help thinking that at the same time some Washington area kids would be packing their graphite rods and fly-tying kits, others would be facing a very different kind of summer.

That's where Camp Moss Hollow comes in. Moss Hollow is 400 acres of rolling, forested Fauquier County countryside. While it might not be Maine, it's nothing to sneeze at. There are hiking trails and a ropes course, a swimming pool and a basketball court, arts and crafts buildings and a playing field. There's even a fish-filled lake. It's a small one, but if you've never seen a lake, it serves as a nice introduction.

Moss Hollow caters to kids who haven't seen a lake, who haven't roasted marshmallows over an open fire, who haven't camped under the stars. They are city kids mostly, from disadvantaged families in the Washington area. For reasons entirely beyond their control, they don't have access to Maine.

Washington Post readers have been supporting the camp for decades, and today we kick off this year's Send a Kid to Camp campaign. This is a year of change for Send a Kid to Camp. The nonprofit organization that runs the camp has just changed its name. What used to be Family and Child Services of Washington, D.C., is now Family Matters of Greater Washington.

I like that name a lot. I also like that it hopefully will end the confusion with Child and Family Services, the District agency.

Family Matters has a new director. The estimable Charlotte McConnell, the group's longtime leader, recently retired, and Tonya Jackson Smallwood has taken the helm. She comes to Family Matters from Freddie Mac, where her jobs included vice president of business operations and vice president of customer care and organizational leadership.

When it comes to Moss Hollow, Tonya has had a quite literal baptism by fire. She first visited the camp on a rainy day in early May, just as staffers started waking it from its off-season slumber. On the day of Tonya's tour, an electrical panel box caught fire, damaging one corner of Chase Lodge, the former farmhouse that is the oldest building on the campgrounds. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The lodge contains mainly offices, and it will be repaired by the time camp opens later this month.

Another change, and one I'm delighted about: The Clyde's Restaurant Group is our new sponsor. Every Wednesday during the campaign, the nine area Clyde's locations, plus the Old Ebbitt Grill, will offer special menu items. Order one and the proceeds will benefit Send a Kid to Camp.

Clyde's and the Old Ebbitt are home-grown Washington institutions. I hope you'll plan on spending at least one of the next eight Wednesdays sampling their fare. (I'll have more information the day after tomorrow.)

I've once again set our goal at $500,000. I know it's a difficult year for many of us, but I'm hopeful that, as you've done so many times in the past, you will support Moss Hollow's good work. It costs about $700 to send one child to Moss Hollow for one week.

To make a tax-deductible gift, send a check or money order, payable to "Send a Kid to Camp," to P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237. Or contribute online by going to http://www.washingtonpost.com/camp and clicking on the donation link. To use MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.

There are about two more weeks of school for most area kids. Already, they're looking at the calendar, keeping an eye on the clock. Please help ensure that when that final bell rings, they'll have someplace almost as special as Maine to go.

My e-mail: kellyj@washpost.com. My blog, "John Kelly's Commons": http://voices.washingtonpost.com/commons.


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