When The Charlotte Observer, with help from the nonprofit Partners in Out-of-School Time, launched a fundraiser this spring to send low-income children to summer camp, no one knew whether the idea would fly in a troubled economy.
Readers came through.
They donated $49,689 to The Summer Camp Fund – enough to carry out this year's program and ensure it continues next camp season.
The concept behind the fund – to allow children from low-income backgrounds to enjoy the outdoors in a safe, structured environment – struck a chord with donors.
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Readers gave as individuals. Margaret Morrison of Charlotte donated on behalf of her now-adult daughters because they “still consider their camp days the best of their lives.”
Readers gave in groups – from the community service group out of Kannapolis to the office team at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that passed the envelope from cubicle to cubicle.
And readers gave to open doors for children like eighth-grader Breondra Newman of Charlotte. She enjoyed a week of campfires, creek walks, swimming and more at Girl Scout camp in the mountains of Rutherford County.
The camping experience, Breondra said, “brings you out of what you normally have, into the woods.”
Campers attended day or overnight camps in settings that promoted physical activity and enjoying nature.
“People are really understanding the connection between kids being outdoors and the importance of what that means to their physical health,” says Claire Tate, president of Partners in Out-of-School Time.
Next year – with the hope of readers' continued support – the goal is to allow more children to spend even more time outdoors, with longer camp stays.
All the better to help kids build confidence, make friends, and craft summer camp memories that will last a lifetime.