Old Two Fingers had just inflicted a graduation speech upon the Class of 1999 from Quince Orchard High School. Apparently, he had managed not to put anyone to sleep as he urged the troops to build community.
Little did he think that a '99er would buy the message quite so soon -- or quite so pointedly.
About halfway down the steps of DAR Constitution Hall, a burly fellow approached, with a cap and gown still aboard his body and a purposeful look upon his face.
Uh, oh, I said to myself. Looks like a dissatisfied customer. Must have offended his great aunt by what I said.
Wrong, as usual.
The young man stuck out his hand. I shook it. He introduced himself and then started fumbling in his right front pants pocket. He produced a $5 bill and held it shyly toward me.
"For Send a Kid to Camp," he said.
This has happened to me often during my decades on the fund-raising barricades. But the giver is usually someone as gray-headed as I am. So it's always a special kick when young people "get it" about other young people who may not be as fortunate.
Here at Send a Kid to Camp Central, I adore opening envelopes and discovering notes from children who have just been bar mitzvahed or confirmed. Hiding behind the notes is often a check or money order -- a piece of the loot they can't help but share.
I love it when something in the mail is suspiciously heavy -- and it turns out to be a glass jar, filled with pennies by an 8-year-old, who is about to go to summer camp and can't bear to know that poorer kids might not.
How gratifying to get scribbled notes that say something like, "Hi, I'm Rebecca. I'm 7. I get $5 a week allowance. I want your kids to have it." Right beside the note is a $25 check, made out by Mom -- Rebecca's fiver and 20 more from her parents, as sugar on top.
As our annual Send a Kid to Camp fund-raising campaign wraps up its second week, I hope that other children will be similarly inspired.
So many of us are so blessed. Let's help children in our community who can't say that. They, too, will enjoy and profit from spending time in the country. Your dollars will send them there.
Wall Street has been Wonder Street for the last five years. Some investors are better off than they ever thought they'd be, thanks to bullish stocks that keep bulling ahead.
But if you sell appreciated stock, you will pay taxes on the amount that it has grown. That can cause disappointments.
One way around some of that tax: Give appreciated shares to our Send a Kid to Camp campaign.
First and foremost, your money will go to a great cause. This summer, we expect to send at least 882 underprivileged local children to Camp Moss Hollow, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We'll send even more children if we have the money to do it.
The campers are foster children, adopted children, children who've been in trouble with the law -- sometimes all three. They come from the toughest neighborhoods in the area. Many have never slept under a tree or walked in the woods. Many are right on the edge of being lost to crime, illiteracy and drugs.
At camp, these children will swim, hike, learn arts and crafts, take part in performing arts programs and play all sorts of sports. It'll be a wholesome time in young lives that are often full of turmoil.
Second, by donating appreciated stock to a recognized nonprofit cause, you get substantial tax deductions. Specifics depend on your circumstances. You'll want to consult your tax adviser (or have the joyous experience of poring over IRS regulations yourself). But we're talking in many cases about thousands in tax savings.
Third, you will be sharing your good fortune. When some people get windfalls, they hug every penny to their chests and say, like a child in day care, "Mine!" Others take a look at programs like Send a Kid to Camp and think, "What's the use of being lucky if I can't make someone else lucky?"
Thanks very much in advance for making your growing fortune a child's good fortune.
On a smaller scale, it's time for a reminder about pennies.
We gladly accept them, in any amount. If you get your collection to me, at 1150 15th St. NW during business hours, I'll do the rest.
Our goal by July 30: $550,000.
In hand as of June 14: $50,634.85.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
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.
VISA OR MASTERCARD:
Call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.