You know what today is, don't you? Yes, it's the 65th anniversary of the day that Bugs Bunny made his motion picture debut. And it's singer Maureen "There's Got to Be a Morning After" McGovern's 56th birthday.
But more pertinently, today marks the end of the 2005 Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Over the past eight weeks in this space, you've been reading about Camp Moss Hollow, the summer camp for at-risk kids that is funded by readers of The Washington Post.
As fundraising drives go, this one has been somewhat maddening. Many readers have contributed generously, but we've lagged behind last year's levels from the start. Since today is the last day, I thought I would let te kids have the last word. After all, they're the ones we're doing this for.
Gerald Turner is a 12-year-old who lives in Southeast Washington with his aunt, Yolanda Turner. Last week the camp held an essay contest, inviting campers to explain why they come back to Camp Moss Hollow. This is Gerald's first-place-winning entry:
"Hi, my name is Gerald and I love to camp out. The reason I like to come to camp is the whole nature feeling. Why? Well, where I come from it is not peaceful and sometimes when I'm asleep I wake up because of the noise. While I'm up I just think, 'Why are we on earth?' and 'Why did God create people?' But when I'm at camp I don't think about anything. I can just have fun. If you just look and compare camp to where you are from you can see that camp is a lot better.
"To me the reason camp is a lot better than home is because you get to meet more people. You don't have all the shooting and noise. You don't have to pay attention to all that 'what crew you rolling with?' or having to know how to fight. Most of the time at camp you can meet people who you can sit down and just express your feelings with.
"You meet real nice people who don't care where you come from. People who get to know you before they just judge you by the way you look. And you get to play with other genders. See, where I go to school we only get to see the girls during class. I think that's unfair. The whole time I'm at school I always do what I have to do so I can come to camp in the summer.
"I come to camp because it's like the one place I can be the nicer me. I don't front on the streets. It's just I got to do what I got to do, day to day to get by. Camp is a good experience for people like me, with no father to take you in the outback. What I have always heard is that you learn to be a gentleman and have fun with your dad. To me camp is my dad. The best there is to me.
"The reason why I am writing this essay about why camp is so important to me is because camp is better than anything. Another reason is to show how important the staff and the people who give donations to camp are. Without them there is nothing but land. With them there is still land but with love. That is why I keep coming back. I hope to be a very important person to this camp when I grow up. Some people don't show how much they love camp, but they do. They just try to hide it."
Letters From Camp
Gerald isn't the only young writer at Moss Hollow. Other campers sent me letters. Some excerpts:
"My experience with Camp Moss Hollow was very fun because I got to experience new things like hiking. I never hiked in my life. I hope I will come back another time."
-- Akeem, 12
"This camp is my life. I have been here for seven years. This one will be my eighth year. I love this camp. I plan to work here also. This camp has made a difference towards me."
-- Sa'Shay, 13
"Most of all it's about having fun. And it's like home. You can always find a friend at the Hollow. You have chores, but it's fun to clean up unless you're lazy. If you like to have fun, then this is the place for you. So come down here, and if you like it you could keep on coming. If you don't then it's your fault."
-- Sharna, 12
"I come back to Camp Moss Hollow because it is very fun. We go swimming, hiking, canoeing and have campfires, talent shows, cookouts, fashion shows and dinner parties. Those are my favorite things. We also get away from the city for a few days. That is why I come back."
-- Tyler, 10
"I really like to be here because there is no confusion and harm. Camp Moss Hollow is the first and last camp I will go to. The reason is because I really don't like to get around a lot. I loved singing because I like to sing often. This was the best and funnyest camp ever." -- Jasmine, 10
"My reflection on camp was that I really like camp even though I got in trouble a few times. And Ms. Hope was very patient with me. I really loved swimming and all the other marvelous things we did at Camp Moss Hollow. I would really like to come back continuously."
-- Shaniqua, 13
Your Last Chance
I will announce this year's total at the end of the week. As of yesterday, we stood at $347,964.59, or $302,035.41 shy of our goal of $650,000. Can we make it by Friday? Your gift might be the one that sends us over the top. 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 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.