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Camp Gray breaks ground for the future Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Chris "Topher" Aderhold, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Oct. 05, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
camp gray blessing
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, pictured at far right, blesses the ground where a new gym building will be built at Camp Gray in Reedsburg during a groundbreaking ceremony on September 12. To view or purchase photos, go to www.madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

REEDSBURG -- As His Excellency, Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, sprinkled holy water around the newly dedicated St. John Paul II Dining Hall at Camp Gray, both the magnitude of the evening, and holy water, hit me square in the face.

In the 64 years since the founding of Camp Gray, there have been many monumental days atop Camp’s beautiful 225 acres of God’s creation.

On a recent Tuesday evening, Sept. 12, dozens and dozens of Camp Gray families, staffers, volunteers, and benefactors gathered at Camp Gray for perhaps the most monumental, yet.

The $3.7 million St. John Paul II Dining Hall opened just before summer camp 2017 began and thanks to the generosity of many, all of the money for the new building has been raised.

The new dining hall was only one part of Camp Gray’s “Strength for the Journey” campaign, which we launched in early 2016. With a goal of raising $6 million, the campaign will also provide the necessary funds to build a new gymnasium, update and improve our athletic field, and resurface Camp’s roads. With much gratitude, we’re humbled to share that to date, more than $4 million has been raised.

 

Six decades of blessings

Msgr. Francis Xavier Gray founded Camp Gray in the year 1953.

As pastor at nearby St. Joseph Parish in Baraboo, Monsignor Gray recognized the colossal challenges that young people were being confronted with everyday. He recognized that young people needed a place to escape from the busyness of everyday life. Monsignor Gray was confident in the lasting impact kids would have by spending time in nature at a place where they could be themselves, make new friends, have loads of fun, and most importantly, deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Those early days were lean, as only a couple dozen campers attended the first few summers.

Funds to build cabins and other facilities were lean, as well. Many of the early cabins and buildings (some of which still stand to this day) were built from the lumber of ammunition crates donated from the Badger Ammunition Plant.

Though lean, those early days built the foundation of the Camp Gray that we know today. It was the selfless work done by many local families that provided the invaluable start to Monsignor Gray’s camp.

From humble beginnings, Camp Gray has grown into one of the premiere Catholic camps in the country.

Today, we welcome more than 1,300 young people to summer camp, and another 3,000-plus join us during the school year for one of our many retreats and events.

Ongoing mission

Though Camp Gray has grown by leaps and bounds, and many things have changed, the mission of Camp Gray has not.

Put simply, we strive every day to provide a safe place for young people to encounter Jesus Christ. Today’s youth are being bombarded with even more distractions, temptations, and fear than ever before. The need for Camp Gray is as paramount today as ever.

Throughout his pontificate, St. John Paul II had a special love for the youth of the Church. Countless times throughout his papacy, and certainly numerous times when speaking directly to youth, St. John Paul II would implore his listeners to, “Be not afraid.”

His love of young people, his example of courage, and the encouragement he continues to be for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, inspired the naming of the new dining hall.

Gathering many generous and supportive members of the Camp Gray family for the dedication of the St. John Paul II Dining Hall was monumental enough, but the evening had just begun.

Following the dedication, those in attendance walked to the site of the new Camp Gray gymnasium.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held, as construction is to begin this fall on the new, full-sized gymnasium. The scheduled opening of the new gym is set for spring 2018.

While Camp Gray currently has a gymnasium, it -- like our old dining hall -- was built during Camp’s lean years, and has most assuredly served Camp Gray much longer than anyone could have imagined. Also, because of the size of our operation today, we’ve simply outgrown both buildings.

A new gym will better provide indoor capabilities throughout our winter retreat season.

Additionally, it will provide much better indoor space for inclement weather year-round.

Showing support

In attendance on this special day, to show his support for the Strength for the Journey campaign, was former Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson.

Governor Thompson’s granddaughter has been a camper at Camp Gray for seven summers, so he’s seen firsthand the profound impact the mission of Camp Gray can have on young people. During the dedication, Governor Thompson happily shared his thoughts on Camp Gray.

“The great thing about this camp is, it gives young people hope. It gives them the opportunity to be themselves. Every time I come out to Camp Gray, one thing distinguishes these young people: every one of them has a smile on their face -- every single one of them. They’re optimistic, and they believe in themselves. Camp Gray gives them the liberty to believe in themselves and to experience faith.”

He continued, “One thing I learned while Governor of this great state is how generous the people of Wisconsin really are. If you ask them, they will contribute. They want the best for their young people. Camp Gray, ladies and gentlemen, is the best for young people.”

Nearly 5,000 young people take part in a Camp Gray experience each year.

Strength for the Journey campaign

The success of the Strength for the Journey campaign will give us the ability to impact even more young people each year.

The history of Camp Gray has been quite the journey -- it began with Monsignor Gray’s dream, it continued with the hard work of many, and it’s thriving because of the generosity of many more.

We’re thrilled that less than one-third of our $6 million goal for the Strength for the Journey campaign remains.

Enclosed in this week’s issue of the Catholic Herald you’ll find an envelope to give to Camp’s Strength for the Journey campaign.

The future is bright at Camp Gray, and we invite you to join us on the journey -- the journey of ensuring that Camp Gray always remains “the best for young people”.

Thanks for your support!

 


Chris “Topher” Aderhold is the assistant director of Camp Gray.

 

 
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