From the Send a Kid to Camp mailbag . . .

CAMPING MEMORIES: Diane Johnson is "a grad student these days," so her budget is "a little tight," she says. But Diane's memory pushed her toward her checkbook just the same. She sent $20 to our annual campaign on behalf of underprivileged children.

"I'm a former camp counselor (three years at YMCA camp in Sequoia Lake, Calif.) and before that, a camper," Diane writes. So she knows how important, and how lasting, the camp experience can be. We thank her for helping another child discover that.

ONLY PART OF A CHILD: To send an entire child to camp costs $300. "A college waitress who went to camp, too," said she "couldn't handle $300." So she sent $20 in hopes that it "inches you closer to your goal."

Indeed it does, kind donor, and it serves as a reminder to other prospective donors. This campaign isn't a $300-or-nothing venture. We welcome donations of any size. If we get enough $20 checks, we won't need to hope for $300 home runs at the last minute.

GENEROSITY BASED ON WEATHER: A $100 gift arrived the other day from a woman in Virginia who said the temperature had inspired her.

"It's 94 degrees today and kids will need a camp break," she wrote. They'll get one with that kind of help. Many thanks.

A SPECIAL FAREWELL: "We're moving to Los Angeles next week after 13 years in D.C.," writes Miranda Johnson-Haddad. "We're so happy to have this chance to make a farewell present to the city. Thank you!"

Thank me? How about vice versa, Miranda? Thanks for learning the key lesson of Send a Kid to Camp during all those years hereabouts: This program isn't just about giving kids a good time. It's about building a positive attitude, a sense of hope.

THE LASTING VALUE OF CAMP: Not only did Lisa F. Peller make a generous gift to our campaign ($250) but she serves as a poster child for what we always preach.

"I attended an eight-week summer camp in Maine for seven years straight," Lisa writes. "It made such an impression that my bunk is having a reunion this August!

"Imagine, 20 years later, we still consider ourselves campers."

Why not? These bunkmates prove what camp really leaves with campers. It's about building friendship, building trust.

Lisa's donation (and yours) will buy that for our campers, all of whom have had significant problems in their young lives and may not trust others very readily.

DOING WHAT YOU CAN: Sarah D. Harris, of Northeast Washington, sent $25 -- and an apology I've heard many times.

"It isn't much, but every bit counts," she wrote.

No, Sarah, it isn't much if we want to build a B-1 bomber or start a company to rival Microsoft. But your $25 gift is only a bit below our average Send a Kid to Camp contribution.

The trick is to entice regulars like Sarah to keep kicking in, year after year, and to develop new Sarahs at the same time. If we do that well enough, we'll reach the record we seek.

A ONCE AND CURRENT DONOR: "We moved away in '83 when your program was just a trickle," writes Maj. Kenneth F. Hanst, of Fort Belvoir. "Now we're back and happy to rejoin the flood!"

Happy to have you aboard, major. Your $50 gift means a lot. Your kind words do, too.

IN HONOR OF A TEACHER: The German Lunch Bunch apparently doesn't get enough practice by taking German language lessons each Tuesday from Tatjana Hendry. The members meet immediately afterward at a nearby restaurant. German is the only language permitted.

Of course, members occasionally lapse into English. For each word of our mother tongue, a fine is due. This year, the total was close to $200. Members rounded it up to that even number, and sent a check my way.

Thanks, Bertha B. Jacot, of Spencerville, for doing secretarial duty. Perhaps other student groups would want to help Send a Kid to Camp in the same way.

A GOOD LAUGH, A GOOD CHECK: Bob Orben has been writing jokes (and checks to Bob Levey causes) for a long time. He was front and center the other day with $50, and this highly topical gag:

"My wife and I love kids. We really do. But spending an entire fall, winter and spring with them -- come summer, we have the feeling that if they won't go to summer camp, we will."

Thanks, my friend. The kids thank you, too.

Our goal by July 30: $550,000.

In hand as of June 20: $98,900.29.

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.