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What Cabbage Patch Kids Did on Their Summer Vacation: Some Went to Sanford Stein's Exclusive Camp

updated 09/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There is a dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow. You have just crossed into—The Cabbage Patch Zone. Meet Sanford Stein, a dentist who lives in Rumson, N.J. (pop. 7,623). Last May the married, 45-year-old father of five placed an ad in the New York Times Magazine promoting Camp Cabbage Patch, a summer camp for—yes, Cabbage Patch dolls. So far, 51 of the pudgy, overly precious creatures have found their way to the door of his 15-room, 100-year-old Victorian house. Stein calls his venture a "fantasy camp." He says the dolls "do everything other campers do, such as play volleyball and tennis, swim, even break-dance." There has been no problem with security, says Stein, "except that girls keep sneaking into the boys' bunks." The cost for camp is $30 for a four-week session and $50 for eight weeks. Included in the price is an eight-by-10-inch photo of each kid with his or her six bunk-mates, a camp T-shirt ($7.50 extra for a human-size one) and a letter home each week.

After the Times ad appeared, Stein was flooded with letters from "parents"—as children who "adopt" the dolls are called—asking concerned questions: Is there a drug problem? Are there facilities for the handicapped? Is the food kosher? He got angry letters, too, some calling him a rip-off artist. One writer told Stein, who is Jewish, that Stein made him ashamed to be a Jew. Another, from a real sicko, called the camp "an Auschwitz for inanimates." Wrote a third, "I'm not a violent person, but I'd love to know the address of the place the toys are stored for the pleasure of chopping off their ugly heads and arms." Stein says he had "no idea there were so many angry people in the world." He also got a curt letter from Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc., which owns the copyright on Cabbage Patch dolls. He was told he couldn't use the Cabbage Patch name, so the camp's moniker was changed to Camp Small Fry.

So why is a nice New Jersey dentist running a camp for dolls? "For fun," insists Stein, who says he operates the camp at a loss. "There's no way I can make money," he claims, citing figures: The ad cost $400. Each box for shipping costs $1.25. Postage is about $7 round-trip. Then come miscellaneous costs. "I figure my expense per doll must be about $17 would need 120 dolls to break even. I can't handle 120 dolls. I can't write that many letters." Although the Cabbage Patch mania continues, with millions of the dolls still back-ordered, Stein says, "this is the first and last Camp Small Fry." However, he is now looking into profitable aspects of the fad. "There are other things I'd like to do with these dolls," he admits. Just what they are he's not revealing. To find out, tune into the next episode of The Cabbage Patch Zone. Doo dee doo dee doo dee doo dee.

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