Hello friends!

We wanted to send you our massive and profound thanks for supporting this past summer’s 8th Annual Washington To Washington trip. Your wonderful generosity and kindness made it possible for us to bring 42 kids from Detroit, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. on a week-long hiking and camping adventure, exploring the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a magical and deeply meaningful experience that will stay with these kids for years to come!

Our 2017 trip took us to Sherando Lake in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest, near Shenandoah National Park. Highlights included a hike up to Lookout Rock, with sweeping mountain vistas, a fun afternoon fishing at a quiet pond, and a delightful “Field Day,” with energetic (if low-stakes) competitions: sack race; three-legged race; water balloon toss. We made campfires every night, toasted S’mores, and traded ghost stories. By luck, our trip coincided perfectly with the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, and one night, after the marshmallows were gone, we all spread out in the grass and watched the shooting stars. One kid from D.C. told me she’d always thought shooting stars were “made up,” like dragons. She couldn’t believe she was seeing the real thing.

One day, we took our campers horseback riding — the first time we’d ever done that on one of these trips. When we’d made plans with a local stable, we’d assumed the kids would get to hop on a horse for a loop around a fenced pasture, or something. Instead, the good folks at Star B Ranch took the kids on a 2-hour ride, fording rivers, weaving up mountain ridges, and crossing high plateaus filled with deer, foxes, and wildflowers. Our campers were absolutely in awe of the horses, and even the grizzled ranch hands seemed to take pleasure in the kids’ delight.

But no activity seemed to get the kids more excited than swimming at Sherando Lake. Over the years, on these trips, we’ve gone for dips in some lovely spots, but this place was truly exquisite — a wide sandy beach, and a cool, clear lake, ringed by lush, gentle mountain peaks. There was even a small island 100 feet from shore, which most of our kids swam out to and proudly reached. All week, our afternoons were filled with sprawling games of Marco Polo, Freeze Tag, and other aquatic horseplay, until the sun set and it was time for dinner back at camp.

On Saturday, our last full day at Sherando Lake, we pulled up at the waterfront in our convoy of cars and vans. While we’d had full run of the place most of the week, we discovered that the lake is a popular weekend destination for locals, bringing their families for a swim and a cookout. To be honest, as we piled out of our vans and headed for the beach, under the stares of mullet-haired, camo-wearing town folks, my own preconceptions nagged at me, and I wondered how welcome our group might find itself. But within 30 minutes, the waterfront was filled with city kids and country kids splashing and playing with each other and having the time of their lives. For hours, they played Marco Polo and Freeze Tag, and adventured together out to the island on inflatable rafts. The obvious joy the kids took in each other seemed to create an openness in their parents as well, and soon rural moms were taking cell phone pictures of their kids with all their new friends, and the guys in hunters’ overalls were grilling burgers and handing them out to any kid, still dripping from the lake, who ran up. I found their welcoming spirit unexpectedly moving. In a country that can often feel extremely divided, these rural Virginians sent our kids a message of love and unity.

We were aware that some kind of Alt-Right rally was happening the very same day in Charlottesville, less than 40 miles away, but it wasn’t until we emerged from the woods the next day, on our way back to D.C., that we learned the extent of what had happened in all of its horrifying detail. And yet, for all the hate shown on the streets of Charlottesville that day, just an hour away, at Sherando Lake, dozens of kids from very different backgrounds were playing joyfully together, and finding meaningful common ground. Over the years, through our visits to county fairs, or a pizza lunch stop in some small rural town, we’ve found that our trips are not only a chance for kids from the city to experience the joys of Mother Nature, but also an opportunity for the people who live in the places we visit to get to know our campers. And although it’s not the primary goal of our trips, it’s impossible not to see the value in that as well.

One last thought to share with you: the kids from out trips know that the reason they’re able to participate in the trip is because a stranger — YOU — made it possible for them. Not only is the trip itself an incredibly meaningful experience for them, but the fact that someone they don’t know personally would care about their well-being is something the kids find deeply affecting. Thanks to all of you, over the past 8 years we’ve been able to bring over 250 kids into nature for the first time, providing memories of a lifetime. Thank you so much for your kindness and amazing support! We are deeply grateful, and you are truly making a difference in the lives of some very special and deserving kids.

We have lots more fantastic pictures from this past summer’s trip (and other years, too) on the Photos section, so please check those out to get a deeper sense for all that you’ve helped to make possible. In the meantime, on behalf of all of our campers and volunteer staff, we thank you once more from the bottom of our hearts — your support is appreciated more than you can imagine. And we wish you a wonderful, fun, and fulfilling year to come!

With love and gratitude,

Davy Rothbart & The W2W Team