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Times Summer Camp Fund

Fifth-Graders Vote to Give the Gift of Camp

July 17, 2002|KWALA MANDEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A plaque from this year's graduates of Franklin Elementary reads, "Well done is better than well said." The quote from the school's namesake, Benjamin Franklin, seems especially appropriate in light of their actions.

The fifth-grade class held a vote last spring to decide how they would fulfill the graduating-class tradition of giving something significant to the Santa Monica public school. Past commemorations have included a trophy case, tiles and chairs. This year's options were a new garden bench, a mural of Ben Franklin, or sending underprivileged children to summer camp. The 150 students in the five fifth-grade classes voted overwhelmingly to raise money to send others to camp.

"Ben Franklin is a cool guy and all, don't get me wrong," said 11-year-old Matthew Wizan of Santa Monica. "But we have a lot of pictures of Ben Franklin in the office, so I chose the kids' camp because I wanted to send someone who couldn't afford it to do something fun."

When the students began raising money, it was suggested that each donate a dollar for every year he or she had attended Franklin. "At first it was coming in slowly, trickling in, then there was this big push at the end," said Leslie Wizan, PTA president. The grand total was $750, enough to send five children to camp through The Times summer camp campaign.

Some students brought in a few dollars, others donated their allowances that they had saved up for months. "I get $5 a week for my allowance, and I saved a few of them," said Matthew. "I wanted to use the money to get this video game called 'Star Wars Jedi Power Battles,' but I decided to give the money to the class gift instead."

Michael Katz, 10, said he also "was going to get a new Nintendo game, but then I thought these kids maybe don't even have a Nintendo."

Video games aside, the graduating class does not want for much. Franklin has many students who go to camps each summer.

Michael is heading for tennis camp and then baseball camp. His mother, Phyllis Katz, said, "The fact is that these kids are so lucky to live in this community. But to have fifth-graders who can think beyond themselves is extraordinary for a group of 10-year-olds," said the Santa Monica homemaker.

"It would be pretty cool if it starts a new tradition," said Wizan. "It is better than garden benches."

The plaque of the Franklin class of 2002 will hang in the school's main office, but the class legacy will be in the memories of those kids touched by the camp gift.

Every year since 1954, readers and employees of The Times have sent thousands of needy children to summer camp. This year more than 11,000 children will experience a special summer, thanks to the $1.6 million raised last year.

The average cost of sending a child to camp for a week is $150. This year, the McCormick Tribune Foundation will match the first $1.2 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.

Checks should be sent to: L.A. Times Summer Camp Campaign, File No. 56984, Los Angeles, CA 90074-6984. For more information, call (213) 237-5771. To make credit card donations, visit www.latimes .com/summercamp. Do not send cash.

All donations are tax deductible. Unless donors request otherwise, gifts of $25 or more are acknowledged in The Times. The summer camp campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation.

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