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Outdoor wonder is best in summer

Camp fund brings children up close with Mother Nature

By Caroline McMillan
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com

More Information

  • Want to help?

    Donors contributed more than $77,000 in 2011, and the Summer Camp Fund would like to match that amount this year. Donate online at www.charlotteobserver.com/summercampfund. Click on the “Donate” button to contribute via PayPal. Or send donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269.

    Each week, the Observer will list Summer Camp Fund contributors. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, indicate it on the “for” line of the check. If you donate via PayPal and wish to be anonymous, email cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com.


  • Contributors to the Summer Camp Fund:

    Marian S. Rhyne, in memory of Johnathan L. Rhyne, $1,000

    Dr. and Mrs. Richard R. Pence, $50

    Rolfe and Ann Neill, $250

    Anonymous, $200

    Jeanne and Kenneth Dowd, $100

    Anonymous, $100

    La-Tea-Das Inc., in loving memory of Harold D. Woodson, $250

    Gordon and Barbara Friedrich, $100

    Anonymous, $30

    B.D. Long, $20

    Elizabeth Medearis, $25

    Betty B. Wallace, $100

    Edwin Rogers, $100

    James and Jan Brittain, $250

    Anonymous, $25

    Mary Helton, $50

    Gail and Thomas Sinnett, $100

    Sidney Conley, $100

    James McLawhorn, $250

    Trevor Crocker, $50

    Larry Mellichamp,$50

    Lloyd Conard, $100

    Linda Nugent, $200

    Edie & Scott Shannon, $500

    Kathryn & Michael Layman, $50

    Soundra Troutman, $100

    Janice and William Paris, $25

    Charlotte Latin School U.S. Service Program, $250

    Mike and Melissa Warsaw, $20

    Link and Dan Litaker III, $100

    Peggy A. Howard, $100

    Anonymous, $50

    Eleanor & Stuart Santit, in honor of their grandchildren Sam and Sophie, $35

    Anonymous, $50

    Anonymous, in honor of Jerry Richardson, $1,000

    Debra Cooper, $10

    Irene and John Blackmon, $100

    Kathryn and Glen Shirkey, $50

    Charlotte Country Day School, $350

    Marcie Rollins, $10

    Michael and Catherine Grady, $300

    Lidija Krvaric, $100

    Sandra and William Roork, $50

    Stephen and Cynthia Sanders, $500

    Anonymous, $100

    Sandra Washburn, $100

    Pamela and Jackie Thomas, $50

    Nadine Dilorio, $250

    Robert Condor, Marcia Ray and Laurie Baucom, $300

    Rowena Pratt, $100

    Anonymous, $25

    W. David Shipp, in His service, $50

    Chuck Elliott, $30

    Anonymous, $25

    Kimberly and Brad Barnhill, $40

    Brad T., $50

    Dr. Walter F. Erston, $100

    Kevin Eckardt, $100

    Anonymous, $100

    Anonymous, $100

    Juanita Efird, $100

    Anonymous, $50

    Anonymous, $300

    Carl, Susan and Michelle Thomasson, in honor of Kathryn Shirkey, $250



Summertime is about getting dirty, finding critters under logs, spotting an adventure in your own backyard. That’s why the Charlotte Observer’s Summer Camp Fund gave Charlotte Nature Museum money for 10 needy children to go to camp for a week.

The camps, for children in preschool through third grade, are at the museum that opened in 1951 in the woods near Charlotte’s Freedom Park.

It has live animal exhibits, interactive displays, a year-round butterfly pavilion, 2 acres of nature trails and “Fort Wild,” an outdoor play area.

“Adults take some of the natural backyard wonders for granted,” said museum Director Lisa Hoffman, who has been there nine years. “For kids, every day they see something in nature it’s almost a brand new experience.”

Hoffman calls it the “wonder quotient.”

The museum has green herons, blue herons, turtles, snakes, opossums and salamanders.

Most of the animals are native to the Carolinas, and some could even turn up in local backyards. Many animals were saved and wouldn’t be able to survive on their own.

They rescued a skunk from a farm with poor living conditions and an owl that had been hit by a car.

The campers learn about the animals and insects and how to care for them.

“You just get them to love (nature),” said Hoffman. “Loving it is the start.”

Hoffman remembers one young camper who had health problems. His schedule was strict and structured and his parents had to check on him regularly.

Articulate but shy, the boy developed a favorite spot by Briar Creek, where he trolled for tadpoles.

One day, he fell in the creek.

“He loved it,” said Hoffman. “He thought it was just the best day ever for him to go home muddy and dirty and say ‘I fell in the creek trying to catch tadpoles.’ You have a child who was very guarded, and then you see him in there, covered head to toe in mud. That’s a sign of success.”

Hoffman says that as a young girl, her family always hiked and took side roads. Whenever they saw something intriguing, they’d stop.

Hoffman went on to get a master’s degree in plant biology, and for a while, worked as a museum technician at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington.

“Those early seeds make a difference,” she said. “I am that person who still gets really excited about anything new I see.”

Hoffman said it’s rewarding to see where former campers and volunteers are now.

Some work at the Charlotte Nature Museum or other museums across the country. Others are college professors, architects and inventors, she says.

John Mackay, president and CEO of Discovery Place North Carolina, started as a volunteer.

Charlotte Nature Museum has “changed and impacted a lot of lives,” said Hoffman. “We laugh and just smile and say....‘We’re doing something right.’”

McMillan: 704-488-6874
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