Charlotte businesswoman Pat Rodgers says that throughout her life, she has been helped by people she's never known.
Whether those strangers helped start a Girl Scouts troop in a town that she lived in or gave to a scholarship at a school she attended, she says their kindness helped her. “I don’t think we should ever underestimate the power of strangers,” said the president and CEO of Rodgers construction company.
She hopes to pass on that generosity as this year's Charlotte Observer’s Summer Camp Fund chairwoman, raising money to pay for Charlotte-area kids to go to summer camp.
This is the 10th year for the Observer's Summer Camp Fund. Since 2009, the fund has raised over $1.5 million and sent more than 3,000 children to a variety of day and sleep-away camps.
This summer, more than 500 kids will attend 33 camps thanks to donations from Observer readers and the community. The money raised this year will help send hundreds more to camp next summer.
Receiving a scholarship for summer camp will also instill generosity in the children, Rodgers said.
"The more we can do to help children go to camp, to be exposed to different things to more educational opportunities at a younger age and to gain some self confidence, I think they will go on to recognize the importance themselves," she said. Eventually, they'll also give back to others, she added.
Rodgers went to summer camp herself when she was around 10.
“By the end of the two weeks, I’d made such great friends, experienced things I probably never would have experienced before,” she said.
Camp is also the first sense of being a grown-up, without parents or siblings around, she said. Rodgers remembers campfire cooking, long hikes and chores.
“Your mother wasn’t there to make your bed,” she said.
She went to a beach camp and the kids had to share chores, such as sweeping sand out of the tent or collecting the laundry. “You learn to work as a team when you’re at camp,” she said.
Rodgers and other campers learned how to share responsibilities that benefited all of the campers sharing a tent, she said. “Those are life lessons.”
Rodgers also saw the impact of summer camp as an adult, when she took her daughters to Girl Scouts camp: as girls returned to that camp every year, they would support and help younger girls.
“I can’t think of something that would give back more, to get a smile back from a child that they otherwise would not have had an opportunity to experience,” she said.
Giving to the Summer Camp Fund is an easy thing to do, Rodgers said.
“You don’t have to give a lot to make a huge impact on a young person’s life,” she said. “The impact is so large because you do it at such an early age.”