The donations ranged from Great Grandma Gigi Lee to Long Beach’s former First Lady Nancy Foster. Diners at Johnny Rebs’ restaurants shelled out money for peanuts. Larry and Eloise Kroeze wanted to put a smile on a child’s face.
The generosity of these readers, plus more than 400 others, raised a record-setting $80,093 for the Press-Telegram’s Send-a-Kid-to-Camp campaign, which officially ended last week.
This means P-T readers have donated $1,423,411 in the 18 years since the program was started by Tom Hennessy, the late Press-Telegram columnist, and Jean Bixby Smith of the Long Beach Community Foundation.
“We’ve had overwhelming support from individuals and business partners,” said Marcelle Epley, president and CEO of the Long Beach Community Foundation. “It is very rewarding to know our donors have created an experience for these youngsters that they will never forget. Thank you, Press-Telegram readers.”
The program helps send needy kids for one week to summer camps in the San Bernardino Mountains operated by Long Beach youth agencies: YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Camp Fire USA, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
Shirlee Jackert, Camp Fire’s Long Beach director, thanked donors. The kids would never have had a camp adventure without financial help.
“These kids will keep their memories and draw upon this happy time regardless of situations that may be difficult in their young lives,” Jackert said.
Many donors were touched by stories of youngsters living in troubled neighborhoods or homes who never got to experience the joy of a summer camp.
Great Grandma Lee sent in her donation in honor of her new great-granddaughter. “She will go some day,” Lee said. “In the meantime, some other youngster will have the fun and enjoyment of going in her honor.”
Youngsters like Katie, 8, who could only dream about playing in the mountains, swimming in a lake or looking a million stars at night until her family got financial help.
Or Antonio, who read about mountain camping in adventure books but never thought he would go to one.
Nancy Foster, wife of former Mayor Bob Foster, never went to summer camp as a little girl herself, but that hasn’t stopped her from “making a dream come true for other youngsters.”
She was with friends at The Boathouse on the Bay where John Morris, general manager at the restaurant, said a portion of the proceeds from one day’s business will go to the camp fund.
Morris said he grew up poor in England and never went to a summer camp.
“I was once a needy kid, and I totally relate to these kids,” he said. “Kids are our future, and we need to do anything we can to help them.”
Cheryl Carter, owner of Johnny Rebs restaurants in Long Beach, Bellflower and Orange County, provides peanuts in canisters for customers who shell out money for needy kids.
In the past few months the canisters have been on tables, Carter estimates customers will donate more than $5,000 to the campaign.
“For the most part, we raise this money a dollar here, a dollar there, but the most gratifying part is connecting people with something greater than themselves,” she said.
“We were also touched by those who wrote checks for the full camp amount,” she said. “Most memorable was a single mom who has raised her three children who are no longer at home so she had extra income to send a kid to camp. It meant so much for her to write this check.”
The Press-Telegram thanks all of you who donated to the fund that has helped make a difference in the life of a child.
For names of all of the donors this year, see the “Thank You” page inside today’s newspaper.