Not quite.

We came close to our goal in the 1990 Send a Kid to Camp campaign, but we didn't get there. Throughout July, we were picking up steam, and we seemed poised to reach the $275,000 level, as we had hoped when the campaign began back in late May. But as soon as August arrived, our pace flattened out.

Perhaps our finishing kick went to the beach instead of the mailbox. Perhaps people paid for their own summer needs and wants and discovered nothing in the till left to give, even though they had meant to contribute. Perhaps readers gave their spare bucks to some of the other worthy causes around the area, or around the world. Whatever the reason, our bottom line represents a decline from the year before for the first time.

Our final 1990 total is:


That's more than $30,000 short of where we had hoped to be. It's also more than $14,000 short of our final total of a year ago. But being a charter member of the glass-half-full school, I can report that there is good news amid all the apparent gloom.

Last year, our total was swollen by a one- time-only gift of $40,000 from the estate of an Alexandria man. Take that away from last year's total, and our 1990 total represents a great leap forward, not a sad slip backward.

Moreover, the $244,827 we have just raised was contributed by more of you readers than ever before. I don't have exact statistics to prove that, but seat-of-the-pants says the number of contributors grew by about 10 percent this time around. That not only makes our final total more representative of the community, but it also promises good things in 1991, and beyond.

Best of all, a healthy hunk of the 1990 dough came from kids. Many is the day I would sit down with my trusty letter opener to see what that day's mail would hold. Almost every day since Memorial Day, it held a contribution from a young person who believed in the soul-enriching benefits of camp and who wanted to share the wealth.

One young man in Potomac said it especially well.

"I've never lacked for anything," wrote David Sachs, age 11. "It rips me up to know that other kids my age have never had the nice home I have, the nice dinners I take for granted, the loving parents who give me whatever I want. This check {for $15} is the least I can do."

Grandmas gave. Offices gave. Gamblers gave. Church groups gave. Babysitters gave. Visitors gave.

One woman sent me a check for $10 because of a busted air conditioner. Her Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta was delayed at National Airport while mechanics worked over the cooling system. The woman sat down on a bench. A copy of Levey's column happened to have been left on the seat beside her.

The woman read about the 1,100 underprivileged kids who would spend the summer in the hot, draggy city unless Levey's readers helped out. She wrote a check on the spot, begged a stamp, begged an envelope and sent off her donation.

The woman may never return to Washington, or give to our campaign again. But she proves how moved you readers can be -- and always have been -- by our campers, and by what camp can mean to them.

Many other readers gave because they had always meant to. For example, Jessica McGee, of McLean.

Jessica wrote that she has been meaning to send in a check ever since she had her first child 10 years ago. But she never got around to it.

"I was furious at myself for hearing about all the troubles visited on so many kids in our community through no fault of their own. I knew that the camp program was an effective way to make a difference," Jessica wrote. "But you know how it is when you have three kids to schlep around."

So, to atone for 10 years of neglect, Jessica sent 10 times the $20 she had always meant to send. She called her $200 check "squaring accounts." I call it the sort of gift that keeps our campaign spirited, effective and alive.

So let's not mope. Our 1990 campaign has been a huge success in terms of the positive vibrations it induced among you donors. The $275,000 goal was only a goal. It was never a commandment.

Nearly a quarter of a million bucks is long green, any way you slice it. The agency that runs our camps, Family and Child Services Inc., is delighted with your response. Family and Child Services also tells me that, through a little juggling of a few reserve accounts, every child who planned to go to camp in 1990 has gone. That's the best news of all.

My sincere thanks to every one of you readers who contributed to the Send a Kid to Camp campaign. I keep telling people how wonderful you are. With your generosity, you've proved it once again, beyond anything I could ever write or say.