Believe it or not -- and for a long time, I didn't -- our 1987 Send a Kid to Camp fund-raising drive is beginning to look alive.

As you can see at the bottom of today's column, we have nudged the grand total to within $100,000 of our goal. But we have only the remainder of July in which to raise that much.

Still, the job has been done before, and I am hoping that with your support, it will be done again.

Please remember that you will be helping kids who can't help themselves, and whose families can't, either.

The 1,200 kids we hope/expect/pray to send to camp this summer come from backgrounds that most of us have never known, and never will know.

These are foster children. And kids who have been in trouble with the law. And kids with difficult psychological problems. Kids, in short, who would benefit greatly from knowing that there is more to life than the tumultuous situations in which they have lived.

Camp cannot be a solution to these problems. It's only a two-week respite from them. But when a kid learns to swim, or smells a wild flower, or smacks a home run in a softball game, the benefits don't get left behind in the Virginia countryside.

Former campers say that camp builds confidence and social skills -- and that they come home on the bus. Our program is not a transitory joy ride, like a trip to an amusement park. It's an investment in the kids of this community, and therefore in the community itself.

I recognize that many of you have been saving to send your own kids to camp, or to take a vacation. I recognize, too, that money doesn't grow on trees.

But no one budgets every last cent for essentials. Haven't we all spent 10 what-the-heck bucks for the movies? Or 20 for a collection of bad novels? Or 25 for a fancy dinner?

A donation of that megatonnage probably would not hurt you mortally. But it would help our campaign mightily.

So would larger donations, of course. It costs $300 to send one kid to camp for two weeks. Many of you have sponsored a "whole" camper with a $300 gift. Some of you have sponsored two or more. For those generous gifts, heaps of thanks. To any of you who may be flirting with the idea of being equally generous, my mailbox is always open.

Remember that donations are tax-deductible. And remember that every cent you contribute goes to the campers. None of it is used for overhead or further fund-raising.

How to spur you in the direction of your checkbook? I thought another collection of Reader Reasons might do the trick.

John Bowen of Arlington ($25 gift): "I'm just here for two months from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and saw your column . . . . Please accept this small contribution from an Illinois farm boy who realizes how great the country is for youngsters."

Gina Dixon of Alexandria ($25): "The enclosed is in honor of my new daughter, Kate. I always admired this program but never thought of contributing until I realized how lucky my little girl is to be born to comfortable surroundings."

Pauline Breeden of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. ($10): "A while back, I resumed working after a 15-year retirement. One of the first thoughts I had was, 'When Bob Levey has a campaign going for the unfortunate kids, I'll be able to donate.' "

Robin Grossman of Charlottesville, who spent two years as a counselor at one of "our" camps ($25): "I have seen firsthand what your program achieves, and I think it is fantastic."

Greg Soule, Matthew Roesle and Eric Ruesch of Alexandria ($12.25): "WE HAD A LEMEIN-ADE STAND. WE WOULD LIKE TO SEND A KID TO CAMP."

And an especially eloquent note from Katy O'Brien of Springfield ($10): "As a graduating high school student from a fairly wealthy area, I was looking forward to spending that famous, totally free and wild time known as 'Beach Week' in Ocean City with my friends. On the day of graduation, June 11, I received in the mail a card from some friends of the family. Enclosed was a $10 bill. 'Awesome!' I thought. 'More spending money for Beach Week.' Then I sat down to read over the invocation a friend and I were to deliver at the commencement exercises that night: 'It is in giving that we are able to receive.' I realized then that I could not stand up in front of my family, friends and 700-some classmates and read that -- not if I was going to keep that $10 bill for myself."

Won't you give, in that same spirit, and give today? Here's how:

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 July 2: $124,002.10.

Our goal: $220,000.