I read in the DMN last week that one of the programs to be cut from the Park Department budget was the Send a Kid to Camp program. The last time Dallas was dealing with a severe economic turn down, we had to discontinue the summer camp programs the Park Department had provided children all over the city for decades. In order to, at the minimum, serve the most underprivileged and at risk of our youth during the summer months, Park Board President Ida Papert asked me to develop a plan to keep some camps open in target areas. The challenge was to provide a positive summer experience to our higher risk youth at little or no cost to the Park Department. Sensing that youth serving agencies were also feeling the financial pinch, we developed a plan to form partnerships with such agencies whereby the City allowed them to utilize our parks and other facilities at no cost if they would provide the staffing and programming. I met with numerous youth serving agencies, developed a short and simple agreement between them and the City of Dallas, and a few signed on to partner up with us for the good of the kids. We jointly reached out to the public to provide funding to fill the financial gap for such items as refreshments, equipment, supplies and field trips. We were successful, and several Send a Kid to Camp camps were operated that first summer at little or no cost to the Park Department or City of Dallas. A contribution form for Send a Kid to Camp was included in water and electric bills to the citizens, grocery store check out counters took donations, vendors to the city were asked to contribute, and contributions were solicited by mail and public service announcements. All in all, the program was a win-win for the city, the youth serving agencies and primarily for the kids served. Since the Send a Kid to Camp program has operated successfully and served perhaps 50,000 or more of our children over the past 20 plus years, it would be a shame to see it discontinued just because times are tough. Tough times are why we started the program in the first place!
I firmly believe that a child will make a positive choice if a positive choice is available. Without the positive choice of attending a summer camp, many of our high risk youth face a summer of boredom with too much non productive time on their hands to get into mischief. Is this really a cost effective option for Dallas, or are we all better served by providing our youth with a physically and mentally challenging camping experience? I know from painful experience from my time on the Park Board in lean financial times that you are being besieged with valid pleas to spare programs across the board. Nevertheless, I encourage you and the Park Board to preserve the Send a Kid to Program for the benefit of our city and most of all, our youth. Thanks.
James P. Graham
PresidentPalo Petroleum, Inc.5944 Luther LaneSuite 900Dallas, Texas 75225(214) 691-3676