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Kids brave new challenges at Camp Long

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    - CAMP LONG
    Matthew Stradford, back row and second from left, and A’zia Gallman, back row and far right, both attended Camp Long in Aiken, S.C., last month on Charlotte Observer Summer Camp Fund scholarships. “It’s where kids get to find themselves. They get to be who they want to be,” said Joshua Hobbs, the camp’s director.
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    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    Longtime Charlotte community leaders Sally and Russell Robinson are honorary chairmen for the Observer Summer Camp Fund. “It would be our great hope that every child who wanted to go to camp could go,” says Sally.
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More Information

  • Donate to the Summer Camp Fund
  • Help the Summer Camp Fund

    The Summer Camp Fund raised $13,670 this week. Recent donors include:

    Gwendolyn Atkinson $5

    Betty H. Booth $10

    Anonymous $20

    Anonymous $25

    Doris West $25

    Anonymous $25

    Mrs. Richard Coonen $50

    Anonymous $50

    Anonymous $50

    Anonymous $50

    Hannah Craighill $100

    Carolyn Farris $100

    Anonymous $100

    Elizabeth Rosenbaum $100

    David and Mary Peterson $100

    In memory of James and Emma Dora Sechrest $100

    John O’Malley $100

    Anonymous $100

    In memory of Sally McW. Spears $100

    Mark R. Bernstein $100

    Mr. and Mrs. James Babb Jr. $200

    Andre Leeds $200

    In honor of Chloe and Alac Thomson $260

    Jane Stout $300

    Anonymous $500

    Dr. and Mrs. Tom Fehring $1,000

    Crandall Family $1,000

    In honor of Mr. Louis Bledsoe, by Southminster $5,000

    James Alderman $50

    Anonymous $50

    Mary Helton $100

    Andrew Baxter $100

    Alisa Petz $100

    Susan Lupo $100

    In memory of William C. Anderson, St. Maries, ID $100

    Keith Wassum $100

    Frederick Price $200

    Elizabeth Reinhard $500

    Carol and Pete Budko $2,500

    The fund has raised $104,216 so far in this campaign.

    Longtime Charlotte community leaders Sally and Russell Robinson are honorary chairs for the Observer Summer Camp Fund. “It would be our great hope that every child who wanted to go to camp could go,” says Sally. You can help by donating online at www.charlotteobserver.com/summercampfund. Or send donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269. Each Sunday during the drive, the Observer will list contributors in the Local section. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, indicate it on the “for” line of your check. If you donate via PayPal and wish to be anonymous, note your preference in the special instructions field. To donate in honor or in memory of someone, please also use the “for” line or special instructions field. Donations are tax deductible and are processed through Observer Charities, a 501(c)(3). If you have questions about your donation, call 704-358-5520.



Every Sunday during June, Josh Hobbs watches kids roll into the camp he leads near Aiken, S.C., and sees the transformations begin.

Anxious kids shed their nerves as they form new friendships. Children not apt to take on new challenges learn to be brave on the diving board or scale rocks for the first time.

“It’s where kids get to find themselves. They get to be who they want to be,” said Hobbs, director of W.W. Long Leadership Center – commonly known as “Camp Long” – a 4-H camp offered through the Youth Learning Institute of Clemson University that serves kids ages 8-14 from across South Carolina. “Camp is where kids learn to be comfortable with themselves.”

Camp Long is one of 14 camps that receive money from the Observer’s Summer Camp Fund. Thanks to the generosity of readers, as well as matching grants and corporate donations, more than 260 kids from low-income families will attend camps this summer.

The fund is paying for nine children from Chester County, S.C., to attend Camp Long.

Hobbs, 27, who hails from Kentucky, attended 4-H camp on scholarship every summer, starting in fifth grade. When he grew too old to be a camper, he returned as a counselor in training.

He so loved the mission and the experience of camp that he became the first person in his family to graduate from college, earning a parks and recreation degree from Eastern Kentucky University that allowed him to lead 4-H programs and camps. He’s been at Camp Long since 2012.

“The experiences I had at camp and the things I learned to do made me the leader that I am today,” Hobbs said.

At Camp Long, Hobbs and his staff of 11 strive to give kids a traditional outdoor-adventure summer camp experience. The five-day sessions are packed with activities such as riflery, rock climbing, canoeing and campfires.

Hobbs said he gets “cold chills” when he thinks about the donors who gave money so he could go to summer camp as a kid, as well as the donors who still give today so others can enjoy a week away and maybe find their passions, too.

“When a kid comes to camp for the first time ever, I want them to have the most brilliant experience they’ve ever had,” Hobbs said. “We want them to say, ‘My favorite moment of summer was when I got to go to summer camp.’ 

Matthew Stradford, 12, attended Camp Long last month on an Observer scholarship. It was his first time away from home, and he said his favorite moments were spent ziplining and breaking out his moves at an all-camp dance. “Everybody participated,” he said.

Matthew collected the phone numbers of three new friends and came home so exhausted from all the activities that his mom, Shondray, didn’t hear the details of how the week went until the next day.

“There really isn’t much in Chester for kids to do (during the summer), so this was a chance to get out, meet new people and do something positive,” Shondray Stradford said.

A’zia Gallman, 11, also experienced the joys of Camp Long last month through an Observer scholarship.

She said she perfected her swimming skills in the lake, shot a rifle for the first time and cherished her favorite time of the day, “when the activities were over, and we went to the campfire and everybody was excited.”

A’zia said the air-conditioned cabins complete with bathrooms were “a nice surprise.”

Her single mom, Gloria “Dreeka” Gallman, is a Head Start teacher with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; she said she’s grateful to donors who gave A’zia a chance to go to camp.

Besides hearing lots of colorful camp stories, Gloria Gallman said she has noticed that A’zia has a more cooperative and collaborative spirit when playing with her younger sister, 8-year-old Camiya, since returning from camp.

“I can tell she really worked with diverse groups of people and benefited from being around different personalities. She brought that home,” Gloria Gallman said. “It was just a wonderful experience she had.”

Bolling: 704-358-5440
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