Homeless children are among the most needy in the community, and homeless children are a major part of our annual Send a Kid to Camp campaign. My associate, Michelle Green, profiles two homeless children who are scheduled to go to camp in July -- and who couldn't be more enthusiastic about it:
Many children would be nervous as well as excited about getting on a bus to travel to camp. But Tineishia and Nathan Jones are used to trekking about independently. Every morning, 9-year-old "Neesha" and 7-year-old "Nony" take three different buses to get to Turner Elementary School in Southeast.
Tineishia and Nathan attended Turner before their family moved into a city-run shelter for the homeless on New York Avenue NW, several miles away. Living in the shelter has created all sorts of difficulties for the children, so making such a long trip to and from school "didn't seem like such a big deal," said their mother, Shienelle Johnson.
Johnson wanted to keep her children in Turner, which she attended herself. "Tineishia's grades were all A's and B's," her mother reported proudly. "And she has perfect attendance, like I did."
Going to camp is another experience Johnson wants to share. "I was a Girl Scout, and it was fun for me," she said. "I had good experiences camping on weekends, and I want my kids to see how to make a campfire and not be afraid of animals."
Tineishia and Nathan are scheduled to attend Camp Pleasant near Quantico, Va., in July. The children weren't sure whether they would be sleeping in tents or cabins, or whether they would have to share facilities with other campers. But they don't seem concerned. Six people sometimes occupy their small room in the shelter -- Tineishia and Nathan, their mother, their younger brothers Davon and Derrick, and the young boys' father -- and another baby is on the way.
Camp for these youngsters represents an escape from the crowded shelter and the limited games they can play in the shelter parking lot. "I'm glad I won't be here when the baby cries," Tineishia said.
Although they have to take turns now getting into the single bathroom the family shares, both children rolled their eyes when they learned where the camp toilets are:
Nathan said he wants to play ball at camp -- especially basketball, like his hero, Michael Jordan. But he admitted that he hasn't mastered the hook shot yet. "I'm too small," he complained.
Nathan's main goal for the summer is to become a better baseball player. "I"m going to hit a home run," he announced. "I did before."
"I want to do Olympics and win ribbons, like where you jump over chairs and things," said his sister. "I'm not doing that! I might break my legs!" Nathan exclaimed.
Both children said they want to become better swimmers, but they had reservations. "I might drown," Tineishia worried. "I almost drowned in the pool where I took lessons. And I don't want to swim in a lake 'cause I might drown."
Nathan is a budding artist too. He drew pictures of television's Simpsons and said he wants "to do art" at camp. Tineishia said she enjoys art as well, but her main interest is lanyard-making. "I know how to do the box and butterfly stitch, but the barrel is hard," she declared.
Tineishia listed the kinds of foods she expects to eat at camp: "Cereal, peanut butter crackers, juice, Popsicles, milk and cookies."
"Won't you eat anything healthy?" asked Sherrill Taylor, a social worker for Family and Child Services, which runs the camping program.
"Maybe tuna sandwiches," Tineishia conceded.
Tineishia often gets less to eat than she'd like. She and her family must take a bus to another shelter for dinner every night. "There isn't much, and most of the time you don't get seconds," said Shienelle Johnson.
Johnson plans to move her family into public housing as soon as possible. The unit to which the family has been assigned is awaiting an inspection from the city health department. "I signed up for public-assisted housing five years ago, so hopefully we'll be getting out of here after only a few months," she said.
A neighbor calls the children to the bus that will take them to dinner. Their mother won't go with them because doctors have ordered her not to travel for the remainder of her pregnancy.
But Tineishia and Nathan don't seem to mind. When they get on the camp buses in a few weeks, it will seem like the easiest thing in the world.
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.
In hand as of 5/25: $28,913.60.
Our goal: $275,000.