Not every child who will benefit from our annual Send a Kid to Camp fund-raising campaign lives in the inner city. Dozens of campers live in the suburbs -- where their financial circumstances are difficult, too. My associate, Amy Simmons, visited two such suburban children last week to see what camp will mean to them. Amy's report:
Tina Yescavage is the kind of girl I envied in school. At 12, she has a shiny brunette mane that she tosses behind her shoulders with splendid confidence. It would have been pointless to ask if she is always the first pick on the softball team at recess. Or if smitten young boys carry her books home from school. No doubt she will glide smoothly down that bumpy road called adolescence.
In contrast, Michael, Tina's 9-year-old brother, is a little shy. "People pick on me because I'm small," he lamented, as he swept his fingers across his newly trimmed bangs.
Despite their age difference, the brother and sister tease one another affectionately. And later this summer, they will share more than jokes. They will go to camp together for the first time.
"I heard at camp the pools have these things in them where you get stuck and drown," Michael said, widening his eyes.
"No, they don't, silly," Tina countered.
And so on.
I met with Michael and Tina at a Roy Rogers in South Arlington, where Judy, their mother, treated us to Cokes. Outside, the heat and humidity were tormenting. Tina had braved the elements, however, and had spent the afternoon playing softball for a team that is sponsored by Red Top Cab. She was still sporting her Red Top cap, along with a blushing sunburn.
Tina pitches and plays first base. Michael occasionally fills in when the team is short. According to Judy, he is the only boy to play on a girls' softball team in the history of Arlington.
Most of the time he toughs it out as the team's batboy. "You wouldn't believe how they throw those bats after they swing," says Michael, shaking his head incredulously.
This will be Tina's third summer at Camp Goodwill. "Last year," she recalled, "everyone got homesick and I ran around and comforted them." Tina's efforts were rewarded with a certificate designating her the friendliest camper.
She also won a landslide vote as the prettiest girl, and as a good sportsman. "We have nature lessons, too, and we play 'Let's Make a Deal.' Everyone dresses up funny and they call you up. No matter if you lose, you always get something," Tina said.
Tina will be entering the seventh grade at Kenmore Intermediate School this fall. Besides sports, she also enjoys drama. Last year, she soloed in a school musical titled "The Talent Show." Her song was called, "Give Me A Little Kiss."
Michael has spent past summers at a camp sponsored by Blossom Memorial Baptist Church. He will be visiting Camp Pleasant this summer for the first time.
"I probably won't know anybody," he said. To practice his swimming for camp, Michael is also eager to obtain goggles. "Can I get some?" he pleads, in the direction of his mother. "We'll see," she answers.
Michael will be a third-grader at Glencarlyn Elementary School in the fall. His favorite book to date is called "The Stupids." "They get all Fs on their report cards and think it's great," he said, laughing.
Judy Yescavage divorced seven years ago with no illusions of alimony. The family has not seen or heard from the father since he departed. They seem content to keep it that way.
Judy rises with the children and goes to work each weekday as a legal aide in Crystal City. When she returns home at 6 p.m., the children have already made dinner for themselves and have completed their household chores.
"They make chicken, spaghetti, meat loaf," says Judy. "They do their own laundry and clean the house." So that each of her kids can have a private room, Judy sleeps on the couch of their modest home in South Arlington. "One day I hope we can move," she said, wistfully.
Judy hopes that Michael and Tina will go to college some day. As for herself, Judy aspires to become a paralegal, because "I enjoy doing research." But for now, the family is steering toward summer camp, softball and survival.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.
HOW WE'RE DOING . . . .
In hand as of June 26: $108,930.32.
Our goal: $220,000.