Ever closer we creep. As the July 31 deadline for our annual Send a Kid to Camp fund-raising campaign approaches, so, too, does the sight of the finish line. We had hoped to reach $200,000 by the time August arrives. At the rate we're going, we have a good chance of getting there.

I usually publish the running totals for the campaign at the end of this column. But today, to save you some hunting, here's a higher-up reckoning of where we stand: SEND A KID TO CAMP SCOREBOARD:

In hand as of July 17: $170,964.64.

Our goal as of July 31: $200,000.

That isn't half-bad, when you consider that the total was only $85,852.06 on June 26. We have certainly picked up speed during July. Now we need to finish with a flourish.

Let me remind all of you once again of two things.

First, our program sends 1,200 of the neediest kids in the Washington area to camp, and it does so with your funds and yours alone.

The program does not receive money from any other source. If we make our goal, the last two shifts of kids who are slated to go to camp this summer will go. If we don't raise the money, those kids won't go. Simple as that.

Second, it costs $310 to send one kid to camp for the allotted two weeks. However, donations of any size are a) welcome, b) appreciated and c) tax-deductible.

So please help us cover the last piece of turf, won't you? Send a Kid to Camp is a Washington tradition that's now in its 40th year. Let's keep it alive, and show needy kids that the community cares about them.

Reasons to give to the camp fund? Here are several, from the pens and typewriters of the donors themselves:

Lew Gollub of Bethesda (who gave $10): "We've just returned from our vacation, with pockets inside out and dreading the receipt of our Visa statements. But we hope that this little bit helps someone else this summer."

Theresa Cupp of Springfield: "Here is a check for $15 for your Send a Kid to Camp campaign. It represents $1 for each time our car has been hit while parked (legally) in the parking zone in front of our house. One of those 15 times, the car was actually parked in the driveway! Maybe this gift will stop our rash of bad luck."

Nellie Harrison of Upper Marlboro: "My Social Security check isn't enough to Send a Kid to Camp, but I hope this a $20 donation will help."

Cynthia Hamilton of District Heights ($310): "I remember the church camps I got to go to as a child, because the church paid half. If that hadn't happened, I would not have been able to go, either. I have no children of my own to send, so send one on me."

Tim (Smitty) Smith of Derwood, Md. ($15): "I'm 20 years old and at this very moment, I'm leaving for camp . . . . Camp is the best time a kid can have. I myself never went, but after being a counselor for three years (and many more, I'm sure), I've seen hundreds of kids walk away very happy."

Doris Mangiapane of Silver Spring ($10): "As a kid in Minnesota during the Depression, I always wanted to go to camp. We walked about 18 blocks to a lake with no lifeguard on duty, swam for an hour or two and dragged ourselves back home. Hope some kid enjoys a swim this year . . . . "

Anne L. Schwartz of Southeast ($25): "While I was writing checks for rent, phone, gas and electricity, this seemed in order."

Martha Wollam of Adelphi ($15): "I remember how much fun I had at camp, as a camper, counselor-in-training and finally counselor. That was up in the wilds of Michigan, but camp is pretty much the same everywhere, I think -- fun! Every child should have a chance to experience camp. So here's my check . . . . "

And finally, a letter from a young woman in Springfield with a name that all will recognize:

"My name is Judith Garland (seriously) and I am 15 years old. Every afternoon I come home and read your section of the paper with great anticipation. Well, today May 19 I read the article about sending Jerome and Kenneth to camp. The story touched me deeply, for it reminded me of my brothers and sisters and how lucky we are to be able to afford things such as going to summer camp. I know my contribution isn't $310, but I hope it will help."

Do any of those reasons ring your chimes and send you sprinting off in search of your checkbook? I certainly hope so -- and so do hundreds of kids who are counting on you.

Please give today. Here's how:


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.