All right, Levey. You can start breathing again.
I've just finished punching up a symphony of numbers on my trusty adding machine, and there's good news:
The grand total for our Send a Kid to Camp fund as of midday Wednesday was $125,737.66, which is almost $2,000 more than our goal.
We've made it.
All 1,228 kids are going to camp after all.
The response of you readers after I put out the emergency call for funds on Monday has been sensational. We were in a pickle, but thanks to hundreds of you, we're not in one any more.
The mail on Monday and Tuesday was a cascade, not a mere trickle. And it came from every corner of the community.
A grandmother in Northeast, Evelyn Mann, sent $10 and a note that said her grandmother was a slave. "What a far cry it is from what she had in the summer to what our kids can have," the woman wrote. "I'm delighted to do my part."
A 12-year-old girl in Potomac, Tammy Weissman, mailed in a well-worn $5 bill, with a note that said, "My parents can afford to send me to camp. I know I'm lucky. Before I leave for New Hampshire, I wanted to send you this." Tammy had earned the money by baby sitting, but instead of spending it on herself, she thought of others she has never even met.
Former campers contributed by the score. Arthur Werman of Arnold, Md., said his fondest memories are of camp, even though "I first went to camp 65 years ago." Hazel McCann of Burke said that "camp rounded out my experience and helped shape my attitudes more than school, maybe even as much as my parents." And Mildred Hall of Alexandria remembers "the happy faces of my kids when they got off that bus to come home. They couldn't wait to tell me all that happened. Sometimes it took a week to hear all the stories."
Sometimes the faces coming off the bus weren't so happy. However, even the parents of the bitten, the bruised and the battered gave to our campaign.
Vickie Deer of Burke was one such Mom. She described her kids' camping experience wittily and well:
"The first year my offspring went to camp," she writes, "he brought home a half-finished basket and chicken pox. The next year, he and his brother stepped off the bus with total-body poison ivy.
"This year the boys voted to stay home.
"Here's five dollars which may help cover some lucky family's bill for anti-itch cream. You're right, though; the boys will never forget camp."
Some readers gave money from their "let's-go-to-the-beach" fund. Others took stock dividend checks, flipped them over and wrote "Pay to the order of Send a Kid to Camp."
One man received a refund from a Silver Spring hardware store that had overcharged him. The $18.95 check found its way into the campaign chest. And Jim Forman, a University of Virginia graduate student from Fairfax, went so far as to send in $25 that he had earmarked for books next semester. "I can always come up with another $25," he said. "But you need the money now."
Perhaps the reddest ribbon of all should be pinned on the lapels of the 44 readers who contributed for the second time to this year's drive. It's tough enough to give once, to any cause. But you 44 proved that this community simply will not say no to underprivileged kids. It's terrific to know you're out there.
By the way, several contributors wondered in cover letters whether donations to Send a Kid to Camp are tax deductible. Set your mind, and your accountant's, at ease. Your contributions are definitely deductible.
I'll be dropping by to visit the camps during July and August to let you know how the kids are doing, and to describe how your money has brought a good experience to hundreds of kids. In the meantime, I wish I could shake the hand of every one of you who took pen in hand to help our campaign. You helped make this a proud, caring community for yet another summer.
Thanks so much -- and thanks especially from the 1,228 kids who will benefit.