By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
“As young people you can’t and shouldn’t lose hope. It’s simply part of your nature. A young person without hope isn’t young. It’s someone who has aged too soon.”
– Pope Francis
Did you know that during the school year, approximately 4,000 youth come to Camp Gray for various retreats? That’s roughly 2,800 more young people than in the summer.
Did you know that there are merely 6 (SIX!) CG staffers that facilitate these retreats? That’s roughly 44 less than in the summer.
I love Summer Camp at Camp Gray. Summer Camp was my first introduction to Camp Gray, way back in 2006. Summer Camp, these days, is where much of my focus lies. Three weeks after this past summer, Jeff & I were already planning the schedule for Summer Camp 2014. Much of my stories, facebook posts, and twitter tweets revolve around summer. It truly takes nine months of work to plan 10 weeks of Summer Camp, and I couldn’t be much happier doing much of anything else (save for perhaps being an Assistant Coach for Brad Stevens, the Head Coach of the Boston Celtics.).
However, please don’t let this love and passion for Summer Camp overshadow the incredible work that is done between September and May at Camp Gray – and I’m not talking about summer preparations. I’m talking about the work that 6 (SIX!) CG staffers do to impact those 4,000 youth.
Those 6 CG staffers – they make up the Servant Leadership Team (the SaLT) – live at Camp Gray for the school year, and take a hands-on approach to nearly every aspect of every retreat. During the summer, we have the luxury and the need to hire specialized staff positions, hiring a climbing specialist, an aquatics specialist, a team of counselors, and a crew to prepare each meal, among other positions.
During the school year, a Servant Leadership Missionary serves in all those roles, and then some. During a typical retreat, Missionaries might belay at the rock wall, lifeguard canoeing at Lake Jake, scrub 120 plates in the kitchen, lead a group through a team-building challenge on our low ropes adventure course, teach a class about forest management, lead the mountain biking activity, take a group on a 3-hour nature hike around Camp, and then prepare and perform the evening Campfire – with four costume changes thrown in, for they’re involved in nearly every skit. They do all of this while striving to be a Christ-like example to every young person that comes down our driveway. They, like the Summer Staffers before them, are striving to show those 4,000 kids that hope isn’t a good thing; hope is a great thing.
Exhausting? Sure is. Then, as if that isn’t enough, at the end of each retreat, that small team of 6 (SIX!) cleans all of Camp.
I don’t say all of this to downplay the hard work that Summer Staffers do, because one must sacrifice much to serve on Camp’s Summer Staff. Comparing the structures of Summer Camp versus the school year programs is like comparing apples and oranges. Rather, I share this information to shed a light on the amazing work that the SaLT Missionaries do, just about every single day, between September and May.
Then, when the rest of the world gets weekends off, the SaLT Missionaries are leading impactful Confirmation and Spiritual Retreats for dozens and dozens of the parishes in the Diocese of Madison.
Being a Missionary is hard work. It’s also some of the most rewarding work that perhaps one will ever do. Like I said earlier, my introduction to Camp Gray was as a Summer Camp counselor back in 2006. It only took a week or two for me to become passionate about Summer Camp at Camp Gray. It wasn’t until the 2007-2008 school year, when I served as a part of Camp’s Servant Leadership Team, that I truly became passionate about Camp Gray. There’s something about being at, and being a part of Camp Gray during all four seasons. There’s something about being a part of the team that truly makes it all happen.
A great deal of thanks goes to Paul Coakley, Colleen Dunn, and the selfless Servant Leadership Team. They are an example of Christ to 4,000 youth between September and May, and their work with those young people allows me to focus on Summer Camp, nearly all year long.
To experience a season other than Summer at Camp Gray, join us for a school-year retreat by clicking here.
Thank you for your support of Camp Gray, 365 days a year.
A new ‘Tuesdays with Topher’ Mailbag will be posted SOON! Do you have questions (about CG, sports, faith, coffee… anything!) for the semi-regular Mailbag? Email! Thanks to those that have already emailed over questions! Check out the latest mailbag by clicking here.