"A world bigger than our neighborhood" -- that's what one Anacostia mother hoped Camp Moss Hollow would provide her daughter. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier, has the story of just how big that world ended up being.
Dayvie Paschall was 6 years old during the summer of 1992, the year the Olympics were in Barcelona. Dayvie, who had the dizzying energy of, say, a gold-medal gymnast, wasn't content just watching the games on television. Instead, she bounced around her Anacostia apartment acting out her own Olympic fantasies, and bounced right into -- or through -- a glass table.
"I don't know if she was jumping on it or what," her mother, Debra, said, but she knew stitches weren't the only remedy required: Dayvie needed an outlet for her energy -- and camp was the perfect venue.
Debra, a single working mother, researched her options and discovered several agencies that helped subsidize the cost of camp, including Family and Child Services, and promptly signed Dayvie up for a two-week overnight session at Camp Pleasant, an FCS-operated camp near Quantico that closed in 1993.
Dayvie attended Camp Pleasant for two summers and Camp Moss Hollow for five summers after that. She also attended a slew of other low-cost camps run by the Salvation Army and similar organizations.
"One summer, I was literally coming in for a weekend, and she'd have my bags packed for another camp the following week," Dayvie recalled.
When packing her daughter's suitcase, Debra carefully tucked "love notes" in each of Dayvie's outfits, "so each day I got dressed in the morning I got a message from her telling me how much she loved me and hoped I had fun," Dayvie said.
Dayvie loved camp -- Moss Hollow in particular. As an only child for 11 years (she now has a 7-year-old brother, Quintin, who will attend Moss Hollow for the first time this July), "camp was a good way for me to go and meet other children my age," she said. "It was a very vital experience."
Camp Moss Hollow not only provided the stimulation Dayvie needed -- she loved meeting new people, swimming, playing flashlight tag in the woods -- but it also fostered independence.
"It teaches children how to learn and play with others, and it kind of forces you to grow up. You have people looking out for you, but you don't have your parents there to say when to do what. You've got to know when to brush your teeth and wash your face," she said.
And camp chores, whether it's sweeping the cabin or serving dinner, teach responsibility, she said. "It makes you realize that everyone has to pull their own weight to make things run smoothly."
Maybe it's a stretch to suggest that Dayvie's experience at Moss Hollow has been instrumental to her success, but the 19-year-old college sophomore has proven herself to be both independent and responsible. Instead of choosing a nearby college, where many of her classmates were headed, Dayvie ventured south, where she's majoring in architectural engineering at Florida A&M University.
Last semester, she earned a 4.0 grade-point average; her cumulative GPA is a 3.85. She'd considered being a counselor this summer, but instead nabbed an internship with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Debra has tried to impress upon her neighbors the importance of sending their children to camp, of getting them out of the inner city and giving them a place to channel their energy -- and of exposing them to "a world bigger than our neighborhood." But many don't bite, despite the camp's affordability and the fact that leaving kids bored and hot in the summer invites trouble. "People tend to shelter their children," she said.
Dayvie, on the other hand, "wouldn't let me shelter her," Debra said. "She's one that has wings on her feet."
At Camp Moss Hollow, she had room to fly.
Prepared for Takeoff
What's a daily newspaper columnist to do?
I believe in the work that Family and Child Services does, and I'm proud of this newspaper's readers for the support they've shown over the years.
I'm also well aware that I walk a fine line this time of year: not enough columns about Camp Moss Hollow and its young campers and readers won't be moved to donate. Too many and I run the risk of inducing compassion fatigue, of causing eyeballs to glaze all over Washington.
But I'm a great believer in stories, and that's what I hope we tell in this space: stories of the boys and girls who are helped at camp, and of the men and women who help them.
I promised myself I wouldn't browbeat and I wouldn't beg. We're all grown-ups here (except for those who aren't; hi kids) and so I'll just be honest: We're behind in our fundraising efforts. Last year at this point in the campaign, we'd raised $152,941.51. Yesterday, our total stood at $73,709.60. Our goal by July 27 is $650,000.
The cost for one child to attend camp for one week is $590, but any size gift is appreciated. Here's how to make a tax-deductible contribution:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family & Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly. Click on the icon that says, "Make a Donation."
To donate by MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.