Shirley Gray, a retired nurse in Lenoir, loves talking about the times her sons called home while away at summer basketball camp in Raleigh.
One evening, one son called to report the other hadn't played basketball that day. Gray knew the boy wasn't tattling - and that his brother must be really sick if he wasn't participating. And sure enough, the boy had strep throat.
But not much else kept her now-adult sons from fully enjoying summer camp as kids, Gray says, where they benefited from meeting different people.
In tribute to those memories, Gray has donated to The Summer Camp Fund over the last two years. The fund, an initiative by The Charlotte Observer and Partners in Out-of-School Time, provides scholarships for children from low-income families throughout the region to attend outdoor camps. The idea is to get children away from the city to the outdoors. Readers are asked to contribute.
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Camp is where "their personalities grew," Gray says. "It just helped them ... to meet other people and associate with different cultures and understand the outside world."
With budgets tight in so many households, many families can't afford camp. Gray says children are still entitled to "a worry-free summer."
"I think about all of the children that don't have a chance to go to camp. I know we could afford to send our children to camp, and I know how much they enjoyed it. It's just hard for me to imagine a little boy or a little girl not being able to go."