Pictured above are Sam and Marie Anders alongside former Camp Gray Chaplain, Fr. Jared Holzhuter.
Painted on a bright yellow beam in the rafters of the pavilion at Camp Gray are the words, “Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, the leader as the servant.” From the 22nd chapter of the Gospel of Luke, campers for years have learned the importance of servant leadership by witnessing the Camp Gray staff strive to live up to those words. In 2017, after we moved into our new dining hall, a miniature yellow beam was painted with those same words – the buildings and people may change, but the importance of servant leadership does not.
Back in 2010, a young trailblazer camper named Sam Anders sat in the pavilion as a first-time camper and read those words. To this day, he remembers the significance the staff had on him by living out that verse.
Recently, Sam was asked to share stories from his time as a camper at Camp Gray.
“I could regale you with stories of being a camper all day,” he said with a chuckle.
Stories of Camp goofiness came to mind first. Shenanigans with his cabin mates, mealtime ridiculousness, and stories of absurd games and activities are plentiful.
Given a little more time to reflect, Sam shared, “When I was a camper, I was filled with wonder the entire time.” He continued, “The Summer Camp Staff are the coolest people alive – they’re constantly doing so much to ensure that each camper has an amazing experience at Camp Gray. As a kid, seeing young adults that were so filled with genuine kindness and joy, filled with infectious faith – I wanted that.”
And so, after graduating high school, he applied to serve on Camp’s Summer Camp Staff. He knew the impact Camp Gray had on him, and he wanted to give back. He remembers thinking that if he could make half the impact on the kids that Camp Gray had on him, he would be happy. Sam was hired to serve on Camp’s kitchen crew – the final summer spent in Camp’s old kitchen. There was no air conditioning in that old kitchen, but despite the heat, he loved every minute of that first summer.
The words on that yellow beam stayed with him for each of the four summers he served at Camp Gray, plus the year he spent serving as a missionary at Camp.
Those words remain close to him to this day. After his final summer at Camp Gray, Sam enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard, later transferring to the Wisconsin Air National Guard. He presently serves as a fireman with the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Field in Madison, WI, while putting in the occasional shift at the Oregon F.D., as well, because according to Sam, “As Catholics, it’s our mission to serve. As Christ served, we must serve.”
Not raised in the Catholic Church, Sam came back to Camp year after year yearning to learn more about the faith. While serving as a staff member, there was a tug towards the Catholic faith. Sam remembers, “It felt as though the other staffers had a treasure – something very important and precious, and they wanted desperately for me to have it, too.”
Sam dove into the faith. If he was going to consider becoming Catholic, he didn’t want to just go through the motions.
“By really studying the Catholic Church, I was exposed to the beauty and truth of the Church and how much God works through the Church.” Sam continued, “I heard a knock at the door, and as soon as I opened it, it became impossible to not become totally absorbed by the beauty.”
On June 16, 2020, Sam was fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
A little more than a year later, Sam married a fellow Camp Gray staff alum, Marie. She served alongside him on the kitchen crew back during Sam’s first summer – a classic Camp Gray love story. They were married in August of 2021.
Sam concluded, “I don’t like pondering what my life would be like had I never encountered Camp Gray – many of the greatest blessings in my life come from my time as a camper and a staffer. My best friends, my wife, my faith… not to mention a whole lot of hilarious stories!”
We don’t like pondering what Camp Gray would be like had Sam Anders never come to Camp Gray. Thank you for your great service to Camp Gray, Sam (and Marie!). Thanks for being an exemplary example of what it means to take the joy and goodness of the Camp Gray mountain back down into the valley.