The curtain has come down on our 1987 Send a Kid to Camp fund-raising campaign. I wish I could report that a burst of checks accompanied the arrival of July 31, the campaign's last day. Unfortunaely, the end-of-campaign checks trickled rather than surged. Result: We have fallen about 8 percent short of the $220,000 goal we set at the beginning of the campaign, more than two months ago.
I've just finished firing up the adding machine one last time. It tells me that our grand total for '87 was $203,314.14.
But I am not about to rush out and buy stock in a crying towel company.
First reason: $203,314 is the best bottom line this campaign has ever achieved. That's saying plenty, because "ever" covers 40 summers.
Second reason: Every kid who expected to go to camp this summer under the Send a Kid to Camp program will get to go.
Even though we didn't reach our goal, we came close enough. We added the money you readers contributed to some reserves that are set aside to cover years like this one, when fund-raising falls short. There was enough in the till.
It would have been nice to have reached our goal. Perhaps we will do that a year from now. But reaching a goal is a lot less important than actual kids getting on actual buses and going to actual camp. All of those "actuals" happened -- and for that I'm very glad.
I'm also very, very thankful.
It's wonderful when more than 6,000 readers give their hard-earned money to help kids they don't even know and probably never will know.
It's wonderful that those readers give at a time of year when the checkbook can be dry, what with vacations to pay for.
It's wonderful that readers/donors place such a high value on the camping experience. In hundreds of letters that accompanied checks, readers said they gave because camp helps kids prepare for the future. When a child gets away from the environment he knows, when he tries new tasks, when he learns to get along with others, he is getting an education that will help him, and that will last, many readers said.
And it's wonderful to see that community spirit is alive and well in Washington, D.C.
A lot of people think community spirit here is not only dead. They think it was never born.
A lot of people think that Oliver North, Jay Schroeder and whoever's ahead in the Iowa caucuses are the only people who count in this town.
A lot of people think that the Washington area is packed with transients, who are more concerned with Back Home than with Right Here.
By your generosity, you readers have shown that you disagree.
And so many of you disagreed in such personal, poignant ways.
Take Francis Ross of Bethesda, for example.
At the beginning of the summer, she broke her foot. When she wrote to me in July -- immobilized in bed -- she wasn't in the best of spirits.
"Six weeks of summer shot to %$&*+ 3/4 because of a split-second slip!" Francis moaned.
However, said our correspondent from the Land of Traction, "it made me feel better to know that just by reaching over to my checkbook, something good could happen for me, you and an unknown needy child."
Or take Rachel Newman of Hyattsville.
She is a junior at Notre Dame Academy. Her brother and sister go to camp, "and constantly talk about how much they enjoy it."
So Rachel sent a contribution, with the observation that "the second hole in my ear can wait until next week."
When you are a teen-aged girl, that, my friends, is sacrific.
Or take Margery L. Brillhart of Gaithersburg.
So many people think that Washington is a humorless, dronish place. The note with Margery's contribution put a dent in that cliche.
"In your column today", Margery wrote, "you said that 4300 would sponsor a 'whole' camper. I wish I could do that. Unfortunately, I can only afford to send about 7 percent of a child to camp.
"I hope his or her left foot has a very good time.'
I'm sure the foot had a ball, Margery. And I'm sure all of me did, too.
Send a Kid to Camp is a labor of love for this camper-turned-typist. I enjoy carting all those envelopes upstairs from the mailroom. I enjoy wearing out letter openers (two this year) so I can get a look inside. I enjoy watching the total swell. And I enjoy the feeling that I've helped readers help kids who can't help themselves.
I wish we'd done better in '87. But 92 percent of super is still pretty close to super.
Until next year! Thanks again to evey one of you who made a contribution. Twelve hundred kids are living, smiling, bug-bitten proof that your contributions were worth it.