I understand you visited Camp Moss Hollow a few weeks ago. What incident left the biggest impression on you?
Easy. It was when I was walking with a dozen 7- to 11-year-old boys from the swimming pool to their cabin. A deer bounded out of the woods into a clearing and then, just as quickly, leapt over a bush and back into the woods.
"You see that deer?" a boy behind me asked excitedly.
It turned out that I was the only other person who had seen it. The rest of the campers were farther ahead, busy with conversation.
The boy and I looked at each other and then off to where the deer had just been.
"I didn't know a deer could jump that high," he said in wonder.
What else can you tell us about the boy?
Not a lot, I'm afraid. Many, not all, of the kids who attend Moss Hollow are wards of the state. Privacy considerations often preclude me from naming the children.
What I can say is that he had just been having a swimming lesson. For many of the campers, their annual visit to Moss Hollow is the only time they'll get to swim all year. It was about 11 a.m. The pool was still cool -- it's not heated and doesn't warm up until late in the day -- and I had asked the boys whether it was better to ease into the water or jump in all at once.
The consensus seemed to be to jump in all at once.
Do you agree?
No, I'm a wimp. I ease myself into a cold pool.
Who runs Camp Moss Hollow?
The camp is run by a private nonprofit group that dates to 1882. Back then it was called Associated Charities. Now it's called Family and Child Services. The organization ran its first summer outings program for poor, inner-city youngsters in 1904, when mothers and their children lived in tents in Rock Creek Park off Military Road. It ran several summer camps -- Camp Goodwill, Camp Pleasant, Ivakota Farm -- before purchasing 467 acres in Markham, in Fauquier County, and dubbing it Camp Moss Hollow.
Now about 800 7- to 14-year-olds from Washington, Maryland and Virginia attend the camp each summer. A few hundred also go on weekends in the winter.
Wait a minute. "Family and Child Services"? Isn't that a District government agency?
No, that's Child and Family Services. Totally different.
Didn't I hear bad things about a camp for poor kids from D.C.? Something about abuse and a lawsuit?
You might have. That was a camp run by the District government. It's not Camp Moss Hollow. In fact, Moss Hollow has gone through a rigorous process to be accredited by the American Camping Association.
Is Camp Moss Hollow part of the thing that Channel 4 does?
No. WRC does a fund drive for four other summer camps.
What do the campers do at Moss Hollow?
They swim, of course. They play basketball. They play flag football. They do arts and crafts. (Decorating picture frames is big this year.) They sing songs. They roast marshmallows. They go on hikes. They learn to identify poison ivy. They canoe in the pond. They try to make their way across a rope course. They perform skits. They keep their cabins clean so they're not awarded the dreaded "Dirty Bird." They sleep in wooden bunks in wooden cabins.
Sometimes they see a leaping deer.
How much does it cost to send a kid to camp?
It costs Family and Child Services $590 to send one child to camp for one week. There's a sliding fee scale so that families that can afford it do pay a portion. But many children pay nothing, their stay at camp subsidized by donations.
How is The Post connected to the camp?
You might remember a newspaper called the Washington Star. It supported Family and Child Services' camp program, encouraging its readers to donate each summer. When the Star folded in 1981, The Post picked up the campaign.
Now thousands of readers take part every year, glad to be doing something positive for the community.
So, who gives to Send a Kid to Camp?
All sorts of people. Government workers. Entrepreneurs. Grandparents. Students. Kids who raid their piggy banks. Office mates who pool their pennies. Condo residents who throw a yard sale. Maybe even you.
If I donate, is my name going to end up on a list?
Well, we'll send you a thank-you card, but we promise not to give your name to anyone else or hit you up again for a donation. We think that's important. The whole idea is to make this a painless way to do some good.
I'm convinced. Now what?
Now you make your tax-deductible contribution, using one of these easy methods:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and 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.
When should I do it?
Soon, please. The campaign must end July 27. So far, we've raised $208,680.99, but our goal is $650,000.
And if you don't make it?
It's possible some kids won't get to go to camp.