The Wellington pool in Manassas looked awfully inviting Wednesday morning, the cerulean surface of the water broken rhythmically by the heads of young members of the Dolphins swim team.

"It's not over?" asked a girl in a blue bathing suit, her hands grasping the pool edge, her dark, un-swim-capped hair a seaweedlike swirl around her.

"No, you've got about five minutes," said a teenage girl sitting in a lawn chair and holding a clipboard.

Five minutes. Enough time for several more laps, anyway. The girl threw her body toward the opposite side of the pool and dug into the water in a lazy freestyle stroke.

Wednesday was Swim-a-Lap day at Wellington, an annual event that raises money for the neighborhood pool's swim team. It also raises money for The Post's Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Each kid there had pledged a minimum of $20 -- $40 per family. The idea was to see how many laps you could swim in an hour.

"A mile is 66 laps," said Stephanie Baron, the team's coach, as she prowled the pool deck, shouting encouragement. Most of the kids were doing freestyle, some breaststroke. Every now and then, a swimmer would lunge into Stephanie's favorite stroke -- the butterfly -- or turn his goggled eyes toward the sky in a backstroke.

"They can do anything they want," Stephanie said. "They just can't walk. They can't play. They have to have a swimming motion."

The team's teenagers had gone first, slipping into the pool about 8 a.m., before the sun had warmed the water. Anyone who's ever been involved with a swim team -- whether as a Dolphin or a Shark, a Torpedo or a Barracuda -- knows that early mornings are a given. That and countless volunteer hours by parents: doing the newsletter, updating the standings, ordering the ribbons, running the snack bar. Then at the Saturday morning meets, serving as timers or "stroke and turn" judges.

On Wednesday, Wellington swim moms, and a few swim dads, were gathered in the blessed shade. There was the splash of the water, the smell of sunblock, the drone of hedge trimmers. It was a suburban idyll.

"I know that my husband would rather be at swim team practice than sitting on a train on the way to work," said Joy Wilson, whose daughter, Carley, was about to get out of the pool and whose son, Patrick, was about to get in.

Finally, Stephanie gave the signal and the 9- to 12-year-olds started to get out of the pool, their 60-minute swim completed.

"How many did you do?" Angela Cotton asked her 10-year-old daughter, Katie.

"I did 76 laps," Katie said.

"That's awesome," Angela said. "That's 50 cents a lap. That's a lot more than I anticipated paying."

It was time for the 8-and-unders. One by one, they dove into the pool, some of the younger ones in scrabbling, horizontal leaps that resembled desperate men jumping between runaway stagecoaches.

After just a few moments in the water, one little swimmer turned toward Samantha Lawrence, one of Stephanie's assistant coaches, who was sitting at the edge of the pool, marking off completed laps on a clipboard.

"I forgot what freestyle was," the bobbing girl said, a touch plaintively.

"Arms out in front of you, out of the water," Samantha said. Then: "Good, Patrick! Good, William! Keep it up! Four down!"

Group Hug

Wellington's Swim-a-Lap raised a whopping $2,000 for Camp Moss Hollow. A swim marathon isn't the only way readers are raising money for this worthy cause. The German Lunch Bunch in Montgomery County meets for conversation and sustenance after its Tuesday morning German classes. Members who lapse into English are fined. And those fines -- $300 worth -- have been donated to our campaign.

Other groups gathering donations by various means so far include:

The Society of Government Meeting Professionals, National Capital Chapter ($100); D.C. Ramblers ($103); Vestry of All Saints Church, Chevy Chase ($1,000); Wednesday Women's Bridge Club, Vienna ($50); the Women of Rock Creek Parish, Washington ($300); Potomac Area Newcomers Club, Potomac ($200); Women of All Saints Church, Chevy Chase ($1,000); Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, Washington ($1,076); Washington Bullets Limited Partnership, Washington ($100); St. Margaret's Young Senior Citizens Club, Capitol Heights ($1,000); Surfin' Seniors, Delray Beach, Fla. ($30); the Lazy Susans Club, Washington ($590); Rakas, Washington ($300); Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, Bethesda ($130); Silver Spring Memorial Post 2562 VFW Ladies Auxiliary ($50); Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide, Washington ($500); James E. & Constance L. Bell Foundation, Hobe Sound, Fla. ($6,000); Posner Wallace Foundation, Potomac ($500); Staff of Springhouse Assisted Living at Westwood, Bethesda ($194); Washington Post Metro Copy Desk ($720).

If your club or organization is looking for a worthwhile charity, one that allows at-risk kids to spend a week in an unspoiled setting, please consider helping us. Here's how you can contribute: Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.

To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation."

To contribute by phone with Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437, and follow the instructions.