When May becomes June, as it just did, the fancies of young men and young women turn to summer camp.

Soon, swimming will become a wet fact rather than a distant hope. Canoe will cease to be the name of an aftershave lotion and return to being a tranquil means of transportation. Once again, our youngsters will learn that it doesn't get any better than a hot dog grilled over a campfire or a home run on July 4 with the bases loaded.

More than 1,200 underprivileged children in our community hope to go to camp this summer to take part in these and other experiences. More than a third of them have never been to camp before. Many are kids without parents. Most live in the tough parts of town. Many have never had such wholesome experiences as hiking through the woods or pitching a tent.

For nearly a month, readers of Bob Levey's Washington have been sending donations to help these kids go to camp this summer. The first buses leave three weeks from today. But I'm afraid we're far short of the goal we sat back in early May.

To send all 1,228 kids to camp who have been told they're going to go, we need to collect $124,000. As I write this, we've barely topped $30,000.

That ain't nothin' to sneeze at, as my old camp counselor used to say. But it's still a lot less than we need.

I realize that few of you have dollars to spare in your checking accounts. I realize that this is wedding and graduation season, and all those gifts for all those relatives may have left you short. I realize a lot of you were away for Memorial Day, and may have put off sending a check.

But I urge you to contribute to our "Send a Kid to Camp" program today. Remember: this program is different because it isn't just a joyride. When the entire community shows it cares about a kid who may have felt forgotten most of his life, that kid returns to the city with a spark of hope and a sense of pride. We all gain from that -- in ways that last.