By:  Chris “Topher” Aderhold

After months of planning and countless hours of preparation, the day of the Camp Gray Benefit Dinner finally arrived last Saturday, and what a day it was! We never doubt that there is an abundance of support for Camp Gray from our many camp families and supporters. However, to have the opportunity to witness such an overwhelming amount of love for Camp Gray is powerful evidence of this support. There was a brief moment during the night that I had the opportunity to step back and soak up all of the energy and camaraderie of the night, and it was amazing! But again, it was brief, because there were so many wonderful people to say ‘hello’ to!

I’ve taken the liberty to synthesize all the evening’s many highlights into a top ten list, so sit back and enjoy…

Top 10 Highlights (in no particular order) from the 3rd Annual Camp Gray Benefit Dinner

10. The Food– Once again, the food at the dinner was the topic of much discussion and lots of great feedback. Kevin Andraska, Executive Chef of the South Shore Restaurant on Castle Rock Lake, outdid himself once again. For the main course, attendees of the evening were treated to a scrumptious serving of Beef Wellington, mashed potatoes with mascarpone cheese, and a vegetable bundle. (Literally – the vegetables were bundled and tied together with a leek. It was amazing!)

The Camp Gray Benefit Dinner is a perfect mix of elegance and fun!

9. Photo Booth – When campers first arrive for a session of Summer Camp, photos are taken of each cabin group. Likewise, when guests first arrived at our dinner, they were asked to visit the photo booth. A variety of props were available for pictorial jocularity including, but not limited to: red and blue face paint, hats, sunglasses, mustaches, and gigantic (yet still smaller than life size) paper cut outs of Walter the fish.

8. Live Auction – For the first time, we included a live auction to our Dinner. Camper parents, Karen & Greg DeSanto, from nearby Baraboo, teamed up as our auctioneers for the four live auction items:  Tickets for four to a divisional Green Bay Packers home game of the winner’s choice; Tickets for four to a Badgers home football game of the winner’s choice; a stunning ‘Hope Chest’ built by local supporter Bryan Thompson from wood milled from oaks at Camp Gray; Dinner for four prepared by Fr. Larry Bakke – Camp Gray Director 1979-1994.

7. Silent Auction – With roughly 50 silent auction items available, there were plenty of items for each guest to have their eye on. And while it’s called a “silent auction,” the room which held the silent auction items was anything but. There’s nothing like some friendly banter between folks that have their eyes on the same prize at a Catholic auction.

Attendees of the Dinner watch with excitement during a portion of the Benefit Dinner Cassidy Games!

6. Fr. Larry Bakke’s Dinner – As was mentioned before, up for live auction was a dinner for four prepared by Fr. Larry Bakke. As the competition dwindled to two determined bidders, Auctioneer Karen did her best to keep the bidding going strong.  As the price rose, so did the number of guests Karen announced could attend the dinner, much to the surprise of Fr. Bakke.  It was an extremely entertaining part of the night, and Fr. Bakke was a great sport about the whole thing – even though he may be preparing a meal for closer to 20 now!

5. The Cassidy Games – Again and again, we receive feedback from campers that a highlight of their time at Camp Gray last summer was the week-long competition of the Cassidy Games. Eventually it became clear that a “Benefit Dinner Edition” of the Cassidy Games would have to be played at this year’s Dinner. While there was no Panda Ball played, and no canoe race across Lake Jake, there were other competitions – each giving the two teams (Red and Blue) an opportunity to raise money. The team which raised the most money would be the winner of the Inaugural Benefit Dinner Cassidy Games competition!

4. The Camp Gray Song – Just before the many guests at the Dinner were bid farewell, a request was put forth for the Camp Gray Staff to sing the Camp Gray Song. It was a fitting way to bring the evening to a close, for the song is traditionally sung to cap off the parent program at the conclusion of each session of Summer Camp.

3. Awards – Each year at the Camp Gray Benefit Dinner, it is our honor to recognize the recipients of our two annual awards. Congratulations to Sister Teresa Maria for receiving the ‘Beyond the Staff Lounge Award’ and to Theresa “Mo-T” Wilks for receiving the ‘Luke 22:26 Award.’ (Click here to read about the awards and the recipients).

Jocularity abounds in the photo booth!

2. Fred & Monica – Though Fred and Monica have different connections to Camp Gray; they both bring an enormous amount of fun and energy to absolutely anything, which is why they were asked to be the emcees of the evening. Fred, a Consultant in Madison, and his family are longtime attendees of our annual Family Camp. Monica, a Physician Assistant at the Children’s Hospital in Minnesota, has served as a part of our Summer Staff for multiple summers, most recently in 2011 as camp’s LIT Coordinator. Because Fred & Monica are both extremely talented people, in addition to serving as emcees, they were also chosen to be the Cassidy Games Chiefs for the night, leading their respective teams (Fred – Red; Monica – Blue). Before the announcement of the winner of the Cassidy Games competition, Fred and Monica worked their sides of the room into a frenzy, and those in attendance were so inspired by the excitement of the Chiefs, red and blue napkins were spun around above the heads of all. Congratulations to Fred and the Red team for winning the Inaugural Benefit Dinner Edition of the Cassidy Games.

1. Feeling the Love – In addition to the many people in attendance at the dinner, we’re thankful for those that gave up their time to set-up, serve, and clean up to make this evening possible. Whether sitting at a table, or volunteering for the evening, all in attendance clearly had a great time. To receive such an abundance of love and support for Camp Gray from 200+ people was quite a joy for all of us. It was also a humbling reminder of the impact Camp Gray has on others, and the support others have for Camp.

If you haven’t been a part of the Camp Gray Benefit Dinner, yet, we invite you to remedy that next year! In the coming weeks we’ll set the date for next year’s event, and will begin making preliminary plans. Be on the lookout for details about our next event, and mark your calendars to be part of the “Top 10 Moments from the 4th Annual Camp Gray Benefit Dinner.”

From all of us here at Camp Gray, we thank you for helping to make the 3rd Annual Camp Gray Benefit Dinner such an enormous success. Thanks especially to all of you that attended the dinner and participated in all the activities and auctions. Also, we would be remiss if we did not thank our SaLT Missionaries, the Camp Gray Board of Directors and the Dinner’s Co-Coordinators Lindsay Becher & Jenna Keller for playing a critical role in the Dinner’s success!

Thanks for tuning in, friends! Questions for the quarterly Tuesday’s with Topher mailbag? Email!  Thanks to those that have already emailed over questions!