In most houses, it wouldn't be safe to set down a platter of hot macaroni and cheese and then fail to get out of the way. The kids in residence might trample you in their rush to tableside.
But at Camp Pleasant in Dumfries, Va., the other day, an extraordinary thing happened. One hundred and twenty campers held off their attack on the "big mac" until Ingrid Wade finished her spelling.
Ingrid is a 9-year-old camper--one of 1,100 underprivileged Washington-area kids you are helping to send to camp this summer. Like the rest of the campers who gathered around the flagpole at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Ingrid was hugely hungry after a morning of hiking, swimming and exercise class. But lunch would have to wait a second, because the rules at Goodwill say that a pair of campers must learn how to spell and define a new word before each day's lunch.
Ingrid's word was "sensational." She had looked it up that morning in the camp library. It was now time to recite the correct spelling in front of the whole camp.
"S-E-N-S," Ingrid began. Then she froze.
"A?" she added, questioningly.
When no one objected, she sighed with relief, and flew on, through "T-I-O-N-A-L."
As camp director Randy Dorsey led the applause, Candis Wigglesworth took Ingrid's place.
"What does 'sensational' mean?" Dorsey asked Candis.
"Fantastic and wonderful," Candis replied.
There was more applause--followed by macaroni, at last.
To judge from a day spent at Camp Pleasant, and adjoining Camp Goodwill, your Send a Kid to Camp dollars are accomplishing exactly what all of us hoped they would.
They are buying swimming lessons, courtesy of Darryl Moore, a barrel-chested Baltimorean whose cries of encouragement ("Come on, now! Glide like Superman!") can be heard half a mile away.
They are buying an immaculate infirmary, under the supervision of Cheryl Kelly, a nurse who used to work at Howard University Hospital. A glance at Cheryl's logbook showed that, on the first two days of camp, the complaints were almost all poison ivy, mosquito bites or sore throats. "What's really wrong with them is homesickness," Cheryl said. "But they'll be over that pretty soon."
Your dollars are buying Sharon Brown and her exercise classes. Sharon is a no-nonsense customer. Either you do the duck walk correctly, or you do it again. And again.
"Y'all are not keeping your heels on the floor!" she shouted, at a group of 8-year-old boys. Fifteen minutes later, their technique was, if you will, ducky.
And your dollars are paying the salary of William Holt, a partially disabled 33-year-old Vietnam veteran who teaches camping skills.
Holt has knocked around a lot of jobs and several cities since being shot in the stomach, kneecap and groin in Vietnam. "It has been a very tough time," he said, as he walked down a dirt road between Pleasant and Goodwill, looking for sassafras leaves to show the kids. "But I grew up outdoors, and all I ever wanted to do was work with kids, show them how things grow and how to make a campfire and such as that. This is a great place to do it."
However, we still need more money to ensure that all 1,100 kids on this summer's camp list get to go.
Our goal is $100,000. We would very much like to reach it by July 4. We passed the $80,000 mark on June 22. But the donations are beginning to fizzle out like a July 4 sparkler. We need that final$20,000--and you readers are the ones who are going to have to provide it, for the families of these campers cannot.
Please make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp and mail it today to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071. Many thanks in advance.
One final nudge:
A rather celebrated fellow took time out from his busy life the other day to contribute to the camp fund.
He sent a check for $100.
His name is Ronald Reagan.
Thanks, Mr. President, for setting such a good example. Won't you follow it?