A lot of second-generation campers go to Camp Moss Hollow. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier, has the story of a mother determined to send her daughter to camp, and the daughter determined to do the same for her son.
Alice Jones had her work cut out for her. A single mother raising six children -- five of her own and one of somebody else's -- she didn't have time to keep a job, and she certainly didn't have time for herself.
Except, of course, for the precious two summer weeks when her children were at camp. "As soon as school was over, our bags were at the door," said her daughter Laverne Gilchrist, now 41. Alice didn't do anything exceptional during those weeks; she just relaxed with the other temporarily childless moms in her Southeast Washington neighborhood, playing cards and taking the occasional shopping trip.
Mostly, though, "I was glad for the time to have a quiet house," Alice recalled. "With six kids, you need it."
A nurse at a free health clinic where Alice brought the children first suggested camp. "She told me they needed a break from me and I needed a break from them," Alice said. Because Alice had no income, she qualified to send the kids to camp for free.
It was a good deal for the kids, too. Laverne, who attended Camp Goodwill, then the girls' camp under the auspicies of Family and Child Services, loved life in the woods.
"I learned how to swim, how to enjoy nature -- things that an inner-city child wouldn't normally do," Laverne said. "I loved roasting the marshmallows and doing the leg races and the sack races. Ah, man. That was the good life."
Even the more unpleasant aspects of camp life -- such as poison ivy, which Laverne said she got every summer -- were endearing.
"I had fun getting it, believe me," she said.
Her brother Robert Jones was equally enthusiastic about Camp Moss Hollow, where he was a camper. "Those days, I'll never forget 'em," he said. "If I didn't go to camp, I wouldn't have enjoyed myself as a child."
That experience -- being a child, unfettered by parents or the constraints of city life -- is what prompted Laverne to enroll her 11-year-old son, Keynan, at Camp Moss Hollow this summer.
Parenting for Laverne is nothing like it was for her mother -- she has only two children, and because she has a job as a Web technician with the Department of Energy, she'll pay Keynan's camp tuition herself. While Laverne rarely left the inner city, her children have been to New York, Chicago and the Caribbean.
"I try to get them the life that I didn't have," she said.
But camp is one part of her life that she wants to share with her son. "I think it would be beneficial for him to have the experience I had," she said. "Every child should have that experience."
Keynan, who is at camp this week, was excited about going to Moss Hollow. "That's all he talks about," Laverne said. "I told him to give it a rest. I don't want him to get so excited that he won't enjoy it or he's disappointed."
Let's be honest now: Is that really possible?
"No," Laverne agreed. "He's going to love it."
The beauty of Camp Moss Hollow is that it's just as nice as any camp. It does not look like a camp for poor kids.
Nor should it. As today's column indicates, some parents are happy to pay to send their kids there, so convinced are they that it can make for a magical summer.
But many parents aren't so fortunate. That their children can go to Moss Hollow is because of the generosity of such readers as Dianne Reynolds, who sent a check for $78 with the note: "I have been doing this for several years. I was given a chance to go to camp by other persons and now that I am 78 years old I will continue as able!"
And Carolyn Smith, who sent $100 and wrote, "For the seventh year, I am sending this contribution in memory of my mother Ruth G. Cheney, who worked with young people most of her life and loved them dearly."
And Gertrude H. Huntley, whose $590 gift will enable one local kid to go to camp for a full week. "Please accept this check in memory of my husband, Bill Huntley, who died in May," Gertrude wrote. "We used to do this to celebrate our wedding anniversary."
And Pat Niederpruem, who wrote: "Please accept the enclosed [$50] check in honor of my daughter's birthday on July 11. Going to camp was one of her favorite things when she was a teenager."
And Debbi Lindenberg, who sent $57 and the note: "As our kids get ready to go to camp, it seems right to make this donation. Our 6- and 9-year-olds contributed from their allowances."
And Nan Julie Gootenberg, who sent $25 and wrote, "I went to camp, I enjoyed the experience!"
And Hy Garfinkel, who sent $100 and a note that said, "Tell the kids I said enjoy."
Got that, kids?
I thank everyone who has donated. Our goal by July 27 is $650,000. As of yesterday, we'd raised $230,352.99. Here's how you can join these wonderful readers:
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.