Based on erroneous information provided by D.C. Police, the name of a youth, 17, who was slain early Sunday in Southeast Washington has been misspelled in several Metro articles. His name is Antwain Holroyd. (Published 7/17/04)
Another day. Another shooting.
Another photo of grieving relatives. Another quote from saddened friends.
Another sidewalk sprouting stuffed animals, an impromptu memorial fated to fade in the rain and the sun.
If we think such things are inevitable, we should feel ashamed. But I confess I feel it sometimes myself: The problems of the world are too great, and my heart is too hardened. There will never be peace in the Middle East, and a handful of Washington's children will be struck down each year like condemned men in front of a firing squad. To think otherwise is to be a wishful fool.
Of course, we're sad about 16-year-old Michael E. Simms and his 17-year-old friend Antoine Holroyd, shot to death on Sunday in Southeast Washington -- and for Chelsea Cromartie, James Richardson, Princess Hansen and all the other kids whose names we know only because bullets found them this year -- but these things happen, have happened, will happen.
And yet some people insist on beating on -- heads down, hearts open -- trying to change a future that seems as carved in stone as the past. Why?
"It's just the right thing to do," Hope Asterilla said. "As adults, that's our role: to guide children into who they can become."
Few of us do it in such a hands-on manner as Hope, who oversees Camp Moss Hollow, the summer camp for at-risk kids that readers of The Washington Post graciously fund.
The message that Hope and her staff try to get across -- to see one another not as targets but as friends -- is one that's best delivered far from Washington.
In our breathless urban neighborhoods, Hope said, "there is so much chaos and noise that it's difficult for the kids to siphon out the nuggets of wisdom. And if they aren't fortunate enough to have parents and grandparents and a community of elders who can share with them steps along the way, then they have to make decisions based on what they know."
Those decisions can be bad ones. Sometimes they involve loyalty to a gang or a misguided devotion to what I've started to see described as a "neighborhood group."
Richard Jackson knows what that's like. Rick is from Northwest Washington's Shaw neighborhood. When he was growing up, it was a brave kid indeed who sauntered from there over to Northeast or Southwest.
"As a teenager, I went to a party in Northeast, and about seven guys tried to jump me. I was chasing after some young lady, and me and my friends got run back to Northwest," Rick said. "Even still today, there are certain neighborhoods, certain playgrounds you can't go to. You just can't get on your bike and go to Southwest to play basketball."
Rick is now the principal of Booker T. Washington Public Charter School and sits on the board of Family and Child Services, the nonprofit group that runs Camp Moss Hollow. His horizons might have stayed narrow had he not attended camp some 30 years ago. In that comfortable incubator, kids from every quadrant of the city were mixed together.
The same thing happens today. Camp Moss Hollow, Rick said, "bridges those kind of territorial gaps that are out there."
Said Hope: "Camp provides the opportunity for kids to see people from all angles, because we're living with them, we're playing with them. . . . You're not focused on the differences, you're focused on the similarities." Eventually, she said, the kids can "transcend the communities that they go back to."
Are the bonds made under the pines enough to keep misguided kids from taking shots at one another back in Washington? Who can say for sure, but it's a victory if even one child learns to see a peer as a person, and not the living embodiment of a rival neighborhood.
The other thing Camp Moss Hollow does -- and it pains me to even type this -- is it takes kids out of the line of fire, if only briefly. I just finished reading a book about the Battle of Britain, when thousands of London parents sent their children west and north to keep them safe from Nazi bombs.
I thought of the D.C. area parents accustomed to the sound of gunfire who tell their children not to play outside or venture too near the window.
This has been a summer of good news and bad news. The good news is that the murder rate in Washington is down. The bad news is that for children, it's up.
As for our Send a Kid to Camp campaign, the bad news is we're $466,185.92 short of our $750,000 goal. If we can't get there, some children won't be able to go to camp. The good news is we have until July 23 to make up the deficit.
The cost to send one child to camp is $590. 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.
There's a bit of a competition on to see which McCormick & Schmick's Seafood or M&S Grill can raise the most money for Send a Kid to Camp. Head to one today, order the fried calamari appetizer and you can participate in this friendly rivalry. All proceeds benefit Camp Moss Hollow.
It's okay to order it and not eat it. I was at the K Street McCormick & Schmick's last week, and a grateful, well-fed waiter said he'd taken home three servings of apple pie the day before, courtesy of charitable customers.