Donor recalls how others helped him attend summer camp

Charlotte business owner Jason Crawford read about the Summer Camp Fund in The Charlotte Observer and pulled out his checkbook.

He made a donation to the summer camp fund sponsored by the nonprofit Partners in Out-of-School Time, or POST, and the Observer. The newspaper article took the 38-year-old Eagle Scout back to his own childhood in Grifton.

"I was raised in a single-parent home with my identical twin and my older brother. My dad left when I was 3, and my mother worked two full-time jobs to support three children," Crawford said.

"She worked a man's job as a custodian in a cafeteria mopping floors, and the mop weighed 40 pounds when it was wet. She also worked as an ambulance driver. She wore jeans with patches and shoes with holes in them so we would have clothes to wear to school."

Crawford said summer camp - Boy Scout camp and church camp - were experiences he and his brothers looked forward to each year. It never occurred to him until he was older that those experiences were made possible by the generosity of others.

"The people in my church would talk about summer camp and take up donations to send kids there," Crawford said.

"When you're 7 years old, you don't know you're poor, so I had no idea they were taking up money for kids like us."

While his mother sacrificed to feed and clothe her boys, church members and Scout leaders worked to ensure they could go to camp.

"Somebody in the church would sponsor me and my brothers every year," Crawford said. "It was $60 a kid to go to church camp and that was a lot of money in the '80s."

But, he says, the experiences they gained there were priceless.

"When you get out in the stars with no television, you get to experience Mother Nature. The moon, the stars, hearing the wind in the trees, the crickets, the animals in the night, how to pitch a tent, build a fire, all the things you find outside," Crawford said.

He learned a lot about himself.

"I learned that it was OK to come from where I came from, and that it was OK to be a product of divorce. I learned what acceptance and love is. And I learned that you can overcome anything if you put your mind to it."

Crawford says he's thankful someone took an interest in him, and he hopes to pass that along to the next generation.

"I'm the man I am today because somebody sent three little boys with no father around to camp each year. When I saw the article in the paper, I knew I had to respond. I hope next year that I can send more."