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Camp hits a bull's-eye with kids

By Celeste Smith
cesmith@charlotteobserver.com

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  • The Summer Camp Fund needs help to send more kids to camp. Send tax-deductible donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte NC 28237-7269. Or donate at www.charlotteobserver.com/summercampfund. As of Monday, $55,287 had been raised.



DENTON Thirteen-year-old Jaheem Mann of Charlotte went to camp an archery novice, and left a pro.

Well, like a pro. He hit a bull's-eye the very first time he toed the orange launch line.

"I didn't think about it. I just did it. I was like 'Yes!'" said Jaheem , arms in the air, reliving the moment. "Everyone was surprised I got it on the first try."

Needless to say, archery was his favorite activity as a first-timer at Camp Walter Johnson, a 264-acre camp about 70 miles northeast of Charlotte. The woodsy Salvation Army retreat center played host this summer to Mann and other children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Charlotte.

Jaheem and others got to attend camp through scholarships from The Summer Camp Fund. The fundraising effort by The Charlotte Observer and the nonprofit Partners in Out-of-School Time helps children from low-income families throughout the Charlotte region attend outdoor camps, where they can enjoy safe, supervised time.

Camp is a chance to do things totally different from home, and meet people, according to Ciera Hopkins, 12, who also attended camp in July through the fund.

"It's fun to get to know new people," Ciera said, and "we have something new everyday."

Ciera and Jaheem had a busy five days. They peddled laps around a course in human-powered carts (harder than it looks, notes Jaheem), swam in the pool ("I've been off the high dive, like, ten times," says Ciera), braved the high-ropes course (more stressful than his perfect archery moment, admitted Mann), and enjoyed lake time on paddle boats.

Jaheem said he enjoyed the time outside, away from television and phones. He even managed to read Shakespeare's "Macbeth" during the down time, "just because."

His advice to future Camp Walter Johnson newbies? "Bring a lot of sunscreen."

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