Couple’s lives of service sprouted from summer camp

cbolling@charlotteobserver.comMay 17, 2014 


Russell and Sally Robinson are the honorary chairpersons of the Observer’s 2014 Summer Camp Fund. Both Russell and Sally attended summer camp as a child and have fond memories of going to camp.


  • Summer Camp Fund donors

    The fund raised $13,176 this week. Recent donors include:



    Morry Alzer & Joan Rasmusse $200




    Becky Boulware$100

    Sandra L. Kelch$150



    Linda J. Gulledge$30

    Mike & Cathy Grady$300

    Closs J. Gilmer $200


    Bob Benner$200

    Mr. & Mrs. Raleigh Shoemaker$250

    Kay and Jack Lane$100

    David & Mary Tait$100

    In honor of Martha Yeargin$50

    Walter L. Marcin$100

    Dr. Robert & Diane Seymour$100

    Jan & Jim Brittain$500






    Ronald & Jeanne Sullivan$100


    Amy & Wesley Fritsche$400

    Richard S. Kelly$100


    Sharon R. Edwards$100

    Sara T. Harris$150

    Anonymous $100

    From Windi$300

    William D. Howard$100

    Martha E. Griffin$100

    Kevin & Karen Feezor$25

    Sara C. Sturm$100

    Jean Johnson$25

    Alice J. Ballenger$200

    Phyllis E. Tavel$100

    In honor of Patricia Gilliam Shackelford$50

    Ron & Barbara Shiffler$150

    Anonymous $25

    Rolfe & Ann Neill$500



    Rosalie & Frederick Brillante$100


    Jerome & Sara Leonard$200

    In memory of Bob$50



    William & Betty Reynolds $25

    Richard & Becky Askew$100

    Jean P. Hermes$50

    Zelime D. Richards$100

    Marjorie B. Kitterman$25

    Sandra Renick$250

    M. J. Turlington$100

    Nancy Lookabil$30

    Jo Beatty$100

    Linda Carriker$50

    Theodore Taylor$200

    Charlotte Fletcher$36

    Martin Kinnamon$200

    Barbara Hudson$25

    Jere & Ellen Witherspoon$100

    Ross Bailey$200

    Steven Rogelberg $500

    Carol King$50

    Joseph Spencer$100

    James McLawhorn$250

    Lynn Moore $25

    Paul Jennings$150

    Eric Deitchman$50

    Nancy Smith$200

    The fund has raised $16,830 so far in the 2014 campaign. The total reported on May 11 included 2013 donations made after the close of the 2013 campaign.

  • Help the Summer Camp Fund

    Donate online at Or send donations to The Summer Camp Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269. Each Sunday during the drive, the Observer will list contributors in the Local section. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, indicate it on the “for” line of your check. If you donate via PayPal and wish to be anonymous, note your preference in the special instructions field. To donate in honor or in memory of someone, please also use the “for” line or special instructions field. Donations are tax deductible and are processed through Observer Charities, a 501(c)(3). If you have questions about your donation, call 704-358-5520.

Sally Robinson was just 7 when her older brothers came home from summer sleep-away camp with a full-color catalog advertising a sister camp in northern Georgia.

For months, she pored over the pages every evening after supper, begging her parents to let her go. When she turned 8, it was finally time.

Her mother helped her pack a brown foot-locker full of T-shirts, shorts, swimming suits and socks, and sent Sally off to Camp Chattooga for 8 weeks.

Little did they know the summer of 1942 at camp, and the four that followed, would instill in young Sally a love of leadership, a spirit of independence, an inclination to find solace in nature and decadeslong friendships.

“Even though I was just 8, I learned to value self-reliance,” Robinson said, remembering back to that first summer. “I began to feel more independent at camp.”

Sally Robinson and her husband, attorney Russell Robinson, are two of Charlotte’s most admired and ardent community leaders.

Russell Robinson, 82, is a founding partner of one of North Carolina’s largest law firms, Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson. He has spent decades serving as trustee of the Duke Endowment, UNC Charlotte and Duke University, among other leadership roles.

Sally Robinson, 80, served as a founding member of the Levine Museum of the New South, the St. Francis Jobs program (now the BRIDGE jobs program), and has been on the boards of the Arts & Science Council, the Charlotte Symphony and the McColl Center for Visual Art, to name a few.

This year, the Robinsons are the honorary chairs of the Charlotte Observer’s Summer Camp Fund.

The fund raises money to send kids from low-income families to day and overnight camps. Thanks to the generosity of readers, as well as matching grants and corporate donations, more than 260 kids will attend 14 camps this summer. This is the fund’s sixth year.

“The leadership skills we learned at camp have led us to be interested in serving in community roles,” Sally Robinson said.

“Russell and I were fortunate in that our parents were able to send us to camp, and so it would be our great hope that every child who wanted to go to camp could go,” Robinson said on a recent morning, sitting with Russell on a bench along a woodsy trail on the couple’s property off Wendover Road.

“But we know that’s not the case,” she continued. “That’s why the Observer (summer camp) fund is so important.”

Russell Robinson, who attended Camp Carolina in the North Carolina mountains for four summers, said his summers at camp made him see the outdoors as a safe retreat from life’s hassles.

“It’s a scientifically established fact that a connection with Mother Earth is necessary for the emotional and behavioral well-being of people,” Russell Robinson said. “Young people who grow up in the concrete of the city, that’s a gap in their development.”

For the Robinsons, going outdoors and back to the camp mentality has always been an antidote to the pressures of work and community projects.

So when the couple decided to build a new home in 1967, they picked a spot with plenty of land for walking trails and outdoor nooks.

When the stresses of community leadership mount, Sally Robinson said a walk through the woods provides the release valve she needs. “There’s something about a hike through the woods that gives me a great sense of peace. … My mind is clearer when I get back.”

As an adult, Russell Robinson organized an annual backpacking trip with close male friends – a tradition that spanned 25 years, into his 70s. No matter where the trip took them, whether to the Colorado mountains or the Alaska wilderness, “it was so important in regaining balance,” he said.

And he said he has camp to thank for ingraining in him essential safety skills – such as how to swim with a buddy – that would prove valuable in his lifelong adventures.

“We learned risk awareness and risk avoidance,” he said.

Russell and Sally Robinson sent their own three children to summer camp. And their love of the outdoors has trickled down to their grandchildren as well. Two became camp counselors and two earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts.

Sally Robinson smiles as she tells one of her favorite camp stories.

She was on an overnight canoe trip on Aug. 14, 1945, when she looked up to see a small plane writing “VJ” in the sky – signaling the end of World War II. Her four older brothers were in the war, so to learn of the Japanese surrender was an enormous relief.

“To see ‘VJ’ in the sky was just incredible,” she said.

She still has the letters she and her mother wrote to each other during her summers at camp, and although about seven decades have passed, she still remembers writing each one and how it felt to receive notes from mom in the mail.

“Camp meant so much to me.”

Bolling: 704-358-5440

The Lake Wylie Pilot is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service