By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to sit down and pen the annual year-in-review article.
At Camp Gray, as well as in life, we can’t know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been. Where are we going in 2016? Well, first, where were we in 2015?
2015 was the year of the yurt, the drone, the stump chair, PARADOX, the 50th Cassidy Games, and many, many, many beautiful sunsets. 2015 was the year our Summer Camp Staff ate at Culver’s AGAIN. 2015 was the year of the 12 days of Musical GRAYtness, 56 for 56, the Kid Camp Director, and the largest Family Camp in the history of the CG Family Camp. The Chairman of Camp Gray’s Board of Directors, John Karsten, was honored at the annual Catholic Charities dinner in 2015, in large part, because of his longtime service to Camp Gray. 2015 had lots of CTF on the AF, lots of great campfires, lots of red and blue, and nearly 5,000 smiling faces – more than 3,000 young people joined us for a school year retreat and 1,300 campers took in our annual Summer Camp.
It’s been quite a year at Camp Gray. In fact, 2015 was so great, that when we launched registration for Summer Camp 2016 last month, it took only four weeks to reach 90% capacity. We’re grateful for your wonderful excitement for Camp Gray!
I will remember 2015 for many of the aforementioned events and memories. However, mostly, I will remember 2015 as the year I learned how to live.
As many of you know, Camp’s former Program Director, Paul Coakley, died in January of an aggressive form of cancer. He was 34.
Paul’s death was a shocking tragedy. A man full of life, joy, and goodness, his untimely death was a difficult way to start 2015.
During that difficult time, many of you reached out to the Camp Gray family to offer your condolences. For your support, we thank you. More importantly, for your prayers and support for Paul’s wife and four kids, we (and they!) are abundantly grateful.
Paul lived life extraordinarily well. He loved his family and friends with a great passion. Paul was at home when he was outdoors, soaking in God’s creation. He loved to play games, he loved adventure, and he had an amazingly contagious laugh.
In death, the mantra “Live like Paul” was born. Yes, the Lord called Paul home at a young age. However, few have lived life fuller.
Paul Coakley’s legacy will live on at Camp Gray for many years to come. His spirit of joy, kindness, and adventure calls each of us to follow his lead.
I’m certainly not alone when I write that I feel immensely blessed to have known Paul. His prayer card hangs on countless bathroom mirrors and computer monitors at Camp Gray and beyond. On it, we read daily a quote by Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati:
“You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be so? As long as Faith gives me strength, I will always be joyful.”
We miss you, Paul. Thanks for teaching us so much, both in life and in death. RIP.
We also remember fondly two other Camp Gray men that passed away in 2015.
Hans Hellend, a longtime resident of nearby WI Dells, also died in January. He was 93. Hans served on Camp’s Board of Directors for 11 years during Camp’s infancy.
A pillar of the Wisconsin Dells community for more than 60 years, he saw great potential in Camp Gray during our early years. He gave much time and effort to help Camp Gray grow.
It was Monsignor Francis Gray who first dreamed the dream of building a place like Camp Gray. Shortly after purchasing the land for Camp Gray, back in 1953, the good Monsignor became ill and passed away. He never saw his dream come to life.
Without the effort of men like Hans, Monsignor Gray’s dream might have died with him.
Much gratitude is due to Hans and to the other early champions of Camp Gray. They took Monsignor Gray’s dream and turned it into a reality.
Thanks Hans. RIP.
In February, former Camp Director Fr. Kevin Cassidy died at the age of 80. Fr. Cassidy was Camp’s Director from 1963-1970.
For many of you, the name “Cassidy” might sound familiar. The Athletic Field bears his name, as does our weeklong Summer Camp competition, The Cassidy Games.
Fr. Cassidy had a great passion for the fruits of healthy competition: teamwork, sportsmanship, and dedication. We strive to honor his legacy by creating opportunities for young people to learn to win with grace and to lose with dignity. Win or lose, do it humbly.
Thanks Fr. Cassidy. RIP.
2015 has been quite a year at Camp Gray. Even in the difficult times, good has come forth. It is my strong belief that Camp Gray is better today than it was a year ago. We thank YOU for supporting us on this journey.
Now that we know where we’ve been, what will 2016 bring? Lots of goodness is on the docket, but I suppose only the Good Lord knows for sure.
However, this I can promise: We will work hard every single day to ensure that when the 2016 year-in-review is written, it can be confidently stated that Camp Gray is better than it was in 2015.
Happy Advent! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! God Bless!
See you in 2016!