Some annual events are a pleasure. Anniversaries. Holidays. Vacations. Even birthdays (as long as they don't end in a zero).
And then there is the annual circus known as Send-a-Kid-to-Camp Desperation. Much against my will, I seem to be the ringmaster.
SAKTCD usually hits around the mid-20s of June. It always adds a few more gray hairs to the ever-increasing population atop my head. But it always seems to do the trick.
All I have to do each year is rear up on my hind legs and say, "Hello-o-o-o-o-o out there, kind and loyal readers. Our camp fund is (fill in the blank) dollars short of our goal, and we have only (fill in the blank) days left in which to reach the promised land. Won't you help?" And for 38 years -- four of them with me at the wheel -- you have.
But now I have to ask you to help again. Generously. And quickly.
One week from today, the June page of the calendar flips to July. On that first day of the seventh month, the first busloads of 1985 campers will head for three camps in rural Virginia.
The July 1 kids are the first of four shifts of campers. More than 1,100 children -- all from the metropolitan area, all from underprivileged backgrounds -- are scheduled to go to camp between July 1 and late August.
But we have raised only enough money to send about half of the 1,100. Our Send-a-Kid-to-Camp drive has been in trouble before, but never quite as much trouble as it's in this year.
Here are the numbers, hot off the adding machine:
We had $87,410.31 in house as of last Friday morning.
We need to raise $190,000 to send all 1,100 kids to camp.
There's probably another $2,600 in the mail. So in round numbers, we need an additional $100,000.
We'd like to have it within one week.
A crazy dream? Not based on past performance.
Two years ago, we lacked $80,000, with a week to go. I sounded the alarm, and you readers turned my mailbox into a late-June version of a stuffed Christmas stocking. The mailman didn't love it too much, but I sure did. So did the kids who wouldn't have had a chance to go to camp without your help.
Sending kids to camp is a little like tending a garden. You can't do it once and expect your good works to last. You have to keep giving -- in the case of a garden, time and attention; in the case of campers, dollars.
Our 1984 drive produced a record collection of dollars: more than 180,000 of them. But the cost of hot dogs and bug juice being what it is, the camps used up all that money. None was left to carry over into 1985.
So, as with a garden, we had to start all over again this spring. I suppose we can be grateful that inflation has cooled down to the point where we need to exceed last year's total by only 5.6 percent. But that will be cold comfort if we don't meet our goal.
To remind those of you who are new to town or new to my pleas: The kids you'll be helping are among the neediest in the area.
Many of them live in depressed, depressing neighborhoods. A large percentage come from family situations that are unstable or difficult. Several dozen kids on the camp list have lived in a different foster home each year. Others have no idea who or where their parents are.
These are kids who, in many cases, have never been outside of Washington, D.C. Some have never seen a mountain. Others have never gone swimming or hiking.
But the kid I'll never forget was a prospective camper I met a couple of years ago.
He told me that he thought every street in the whole world had broken glass on it.
How will he ever know otherwise, if we don't help him find out?
The three camps -- Goodwill, Pleasant and Moss Hollow -- are owned and operated by Family and Child Services, Washington's oldest private social welfare agency. The camps receive no help from the government, or from other private sources. They cannot operate without donations from the public.
What's in it for you, if you contribute? A feeling that you've helped someone who needs it. A tax deduction. But also the sense that you've helped build a feeling of community here.
So many Washingtonians think that this is a transient, uncaring, career-oriented, who's-winning-and-who's-losing kind of town. But so far this spring, more than 4,000 Washingtonians have shown that they're willing to help kids they've never met. That's wonderful, but it isn't enough. We need thousands more.
There's no broken glass on the streets at camp. If a kid sees that, there's no telling how inspired he may become. Let's help him along the way.