By: Tim Chapman
During my seven-year tenure on Camp Gray’s summer staff, I saw plenty of changes take place to make the Camp Gray experience truly special to those who set foot on its hallowed ground. Whether that change came to the buildings, the friendly faces, the songs, or the programming, camp was always (and still is) trying to better itself in its mission to bring the joy of Christ to everyone who has the privilege of being there. The ability and willingness to change is what sets Camp Gray apart, and it is where the story of the Cassidy Games finds its source. For without the atmosphere of openness and creativity, the greatness that is the Cassidy Games would surely never have come to fruition.
From the Fire it Rose
At the end of May, before the general staff training began, the administrative team gathered to begin our training and planning for the summer. During the first evening of the three day training the ‘a-team’ huddled around a fire to talk more about what the summer would bring. After feeding the fire for about an hour, Topher told a tale that one of his close friends had relayed to him about his experiences at a summer camp in Oklahoma. At this camp they have something that they called ‘Color Wars’, a battle between two tribes for all camp supremacy. After Topher had finished regaling us with his story (which may or may not have included someone diving into a flaming pool from a high dive) we started to ponder the possibilities that this had for us at Camp Gray.
Over the course of my time on staff we had been through our fair share of evening programs from Survivor to the Gift Extravaganza to Romans and Christians. All of these evening programs were fun and were generally well liked, but what camp really needed was another evening program to rival CTF on the AF (Capture the Flag on the Athletic Field to the lay person).
Sitting around that fire the energy and ideas started to grow about what we could do with this gem Topher brought from the south. From the fire the idea for what would become the Cassidy Games rose and started to take shape.
10 Days to Sell It
That energy spilled over into Topher’s corner of the office later that night when he and I started to seriously brainstorm what this new evening program would look like. We only had ten days before this new evening program would be unveiled to the rest of staff during training and we still had to get the Executive Directors on board.
So we hit the drawing board. First of all, we weren’t big fans of the title ‘Color Wars’, surely we could do better. We started to think about how we could utilize camp’s rich history to name this new program. Immediately the Cassidy Athletic Field came to mind. Fr. Cassidy was the camp director in the 1970’s during a time of great growth both in the summer programs and with the facilities on camp. As soon as the name, ‘The Cassidy Games’ was uttered we knew it was a winner.
Then came the nitty-gritty details of what the Cassidy Games would become. We wanted to bring all of camp together, united in one common goal that didn’t last for just one evening, but the whole week. So camp would be split down the middle with half of each age group being placed on either the red or the blue team. From each of those teams, one of the counselors would be chosen as the Cassidy Games Chief. The Chief’s duty is to uphold good sportsmanship and lead his/her team in having a blast throughout the week. Another aim was to incorporate traditions that have been well established at camp into the structure of the Cassidy Games. Camp already has plenty of ways of making the mundane and tedious, exciting and motivating. Table Races and the Golden Toilet Seat and Dust Pan were obvious choices to be incorporated into the flow of the Cassidy Games. And CTF, a mainstay of the Camp Gray experience, generally thought of as the most traditional and popular evening program, would become one of the weekly competitions of the games.
The Cassidy Games needed something that could be the culmination of all of the effort put in throughout the week. The culmination of the movie ‘Heavyweights’ (a camp classic), involving a massive relay race against their rival camp across the lake came to mind. Why not have a culminating relay race around Lake Jake? (I’m using different iterations of the word ‘culmination’ so much because every time it is mentioned in reference to the Cassidy Games, the entire camp repeats it right back. Awesome.) Boom. Immediately we began to brainstorm and sketch ideas for what each piece of the relay would look like.
After hours of sketching, brainstorming, and lots of coffee this is what we presented to Jeff, Rebecca, and the rest of the administrative team:
1. All of camp will be divided into either the red or blue team with equal numbers of each age group on both.
2. A Chief from each team would be chosen from the staff.
3. Points would be given to the team who wins: Table #1, Golden Dust Pan and Toilet Seat, and CTF.
4. Points will also be awarded during the three mini-battles leading up to the pond race. Each battle will occur between red and blue team members of the same age group with the rest of their teams cheering them on.
5. The team leading in points will get a head start of one second per point up to 30 seconds for the pond race.
6. The pond race will have three stations where red and blue will have to overcome challenges to move two tennis balls (one has a key inside, the other a small rock) on toward their Chief. Once the Chief has both tennis balls, he/she will run from the corner of the lake toward the dock of the rope swing where a lock-box is waiting for them. They will have to remove their key from the tennis ball in order to get their team flag out of the lock-box. Once they have their flag, they jump into a canoe and paddle across the pond, race out of the canoe, affix their flag to a flagpole on the dock, and raise their flag high. The first team to raise their flag to the top wins.
Thankfully, everyone loved the Cassidy Games. With more input and tinkering from the brain trust on the administrative team the Cassidy Games was a huge success. The summer staff loved it and that love spilled over into the 9 weeks that followed. Every week more little things were added on the fly by our wonderfully creative staff (like singing the Olympic theme every time we said ‘Cassidy Games’). Every week when we announced the Chiefs at the Sunday Campfire, a new energy pulsed through camp and the campers could really feel the excitement.
I was That Guy
I have since moved on from Camp Gray, getting married and having a beautiful son will do that to a guy. My wife and I decided to come back and volunteer during staff training this past summer as a last hoorah before moving to the land of wheat and sunflowers (Kansas. Rock Chalk!). Much to my surprise during the Sunday Campfire of Mini-Camp my name was called to be the Chief of the Blue Team. It was an awesome and humbling experience. Feeling the rush of adrenaline as I led the troops onto the athletic field for CTF, and cheering on my team during the mini-battles was amazing enough, but then came the pond race. The feeling of half of camp counting on me after putting in lots of hard work throughout the week as I ran toward the rope swing with two tennis balls in my hands, jumped into a canoe, and raised my flag (first, by the way) was simply sublime.
I hope the Cassidy Games continues to grow and be a mainstay of the Camp Gray experience for years to come. I know that I will not soon forget all of the rich memories that it has given me.
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