By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
“Come to Camp Gray for a day, leave a part of the Camp Gray family.”
-Old Camp Gray Adage
If the old Camp Gray adage is true (and I’d argue that in fact it is very true), then what must it mean for folks that come to Camp Gray for four years?
Paul Coakley, his red beard, his wife Ann, and their son Christian arrived at Camp Gray during the latter part of Summer Camp 2010. Since that time, Paul has served as our school year Program Director, overseeing Camp’s Servant Leadership Team (The SaLT). With roughly 4,000 youth attending Camp Gray each year between September and May, Paul and the SaLT Missionaries stay busy with countless retreats, spreading the light of Christ to many (read more about what the SaLT do by clicking here).
Sadly, in a few short days, Paul, his red beard, his wife Ann, and their now family of three kiddos – sons Christian and Damian, and daughter Caeli – are leaving Camp Gray to move home to Tennessee.
Paul’s red beard, his kind spirit, his love of candy (and his willingness to share his candy), his joy, and his eagerness to serve in even the background of the background – doing the little things to help Camp grow – will be greatly missed. Ann’s joy and her amazing example of faith will also be greatly missed. Paul and Ann arrived at Camp four years ago as new parents. They’re leaving as veteran parents of three – a shining example of a strong, faithful, holy family. Their three children will be missed for obvious reasons: we’re Camp people – we love kids!
A few weeks back, as I began thinking about what to write in this farewell post, it dawned on me that to properly tell the story of Paul’s impact at Camp, there were more sufficient words than my own.
Throughout Paul’s time at Camp Gray, he’s worked most closely with his Servant Leadership Teams – forging strong bonds with the 6-8 missionaries that serve Camp Gray each year. Our missionaries are typically recent college graduates that come to Camp Gray to serve, to grow, and to lead retreats.
30 missionaries have served on Paul’s Servant Leadership Teams in the four years that he’s been at Camp Gray. I reached out to each of them, hoping to receive a simple quote or two for this post. Instead, I received multiple lengthy messages full of gratitude for the impact Paul and his family has had on Camp’s missionaries.
I’ll save these tributes for Paul and Ann, but I will share this: throughout the tributes, a theme became apparent – while at Camp Gray our missionaries didn’t just become a part of the CG family – they became a part of the Coakley family. Past and present missionaries spoke glowingly about how warm the Coakley’s were in welcoming them both to Camp and into their family.
In fact, an “old adage” could be made for Paul and Ann:
Be in the presence of Paul, Ann and their kids for a day, leave a part of the Coakley family.
So what happens when you come to Camp Gray for four years? Adages are made in your honor.
From all of us at Camp Gray, we thank you, Coakley’s, for all that you’ve done to impact Camp Gray. Keep being a shining example of God’s love! You’ll always be a part of the Camp Gray family! Come home soon!
Paul’s four Camp Gray Servant Leadership Teams:
With summer on the horizon, there’s only one more blog post planned before Summer Camp! Tune in next week for the final blog of the spring – seriously, you’re going to LOVE it! Seriously. When have I steered you wrong? Exactly! See you next Tuesday!