City youths pitch camp close to home

September 12, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Outside the Madison Square Recreation Center, on a field littered with glass and debris, about 125 East Baltimore youths pitched tents and camped out last night.

For many of the youths, the weekend getaway -- albeit only a few blocks from their homes -- is a respite from street corners that have lured some into drug-dealing, and where others duck stray bullets.

Ronald Bailey and Baltimore Police Agent Kate Wood started the camp last summer as a way to steer the youths away from trouble, to keep them safe, even for a brief period, and to show them that people are concerned about their futures.

"This is a lot about what kids need to be around. This shows them something else, and that people do care about them," said Ronald Bailey, one of the organizers of the camp, which operates only two weekends.

Later this month, on a patchy field near Pennsylvania Avenue where the storied Royal Theatre once stood, a group of West Baltiimore youths will get a taste of the "outdoors."

The camps are for youths age 8 and up. A little more than 100 youths participated in each camp last year.

Although the cost of the outing is only $2 per child, it is a burden for many of the youths' parents. If the children don't have the money, they can still attend as long as they bring pillows and blankets. "We don't turn anyone down," said Agent Wood. "From Friday to Sunday, we know that these kids are not in trouble because they are with us."

To operate the camps, Agent Wood and Mr. Bailey have sought donations, either money or food, from businesses throughout the city. But most of the money for hot dogs, hamburgers and portable toilets is provided by Mr. Bailey and Agent Wood. Tents that shelter 30 to 45 people are borrowed from the Maryland National Guard.

Agent Wood is not too concerned about the money she shells out. She's more concerned about the future. "These kids need us and we need them," she said. "These children will one day be our teachers, lawyers, doctors and plumbers. They are our future. Sometimes, you become that someone to them that no one else is."

Mr. Bailey, who grew up in the Sandtown-Winchester community near the west-side campsite, said he helped organize the camp because someone took an interest in him when he was a child. He also wants to someday see more involvement by the community in the activities of the area's youths.

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