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Camp Horseshoe gives kids a sense of family

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A 7-year-old tomboy always wanted to pin her hair, paint her nails and wear pretty dresses, but her parents could never afford those things.

The simple act of dolling up gave the girl newfound confidence after she attended the Camp Horseshoe Leadership Center, in Parsons, last year.

Emily Nestor, a camp counselor from Buckhannon, said the girl spent most of her time playing and getting dirty. But when it came time for the banquet at the week's end, the girl was upset she couldn't dress for the occasion.

Nestor said she gave the girl a nice dress and painted her fingernails.

"You could just see how much it meant to her to wear a dress for the first time," Nestor writes in a letter.

Camp director David Cooper said the weeklong camp is open to children ages 7-12. Children who attend come from different backgrounds and many return each year.

Camp Horseshoe is one of the camps supported by the Gazette Charities Send-A-Child-To-Camp Fund. About 400 children are expected this year, and about 75 of those require $50 scholarships each, he said.

Cooper said the camp is a life-changing experience for some of these children. They are pushed to try new things -- fishing, hiking or playing in a creek. And they eventually grow close to one another.

"For a week they become family," Cooper writes. "Many do not have a family to call their own."

Camp Horseshoe staff, he said, always make sure the children have everything they need and three meals a day. They go the extra mile to help the children -- like Nestor did when she bought the dress, Cooper said.

"For one week, we are an escape for some, and we are providing time that they can just be kids," he said.

To help a child attend this camp or others like it, mail your donation to the Gazette Charities Send-A-Child-To-Camp Fund, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301. To donate online, visit www.wvgazette.com and look for the Camp Fund logo.

Every penny donated goes to camp scholarships. The Charleston Gazette covers all administrative costs.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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