By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
It’s been 22 long months since our last Mailbag! From all of us here at Tuesdays with Topher, we’d like to apologize for our agonizingly lengthy absence. Many of you have sent in questions, and I’m thrilled to finally put pen to paper to give the people what they want – answers.
As always, these are real questions from real people. Without further adieu, let’s dive right in!
Q: If you had an unlimited supply of Lego’s at Camp Gray, what would you do with them?
– Pat A., Reedsburg, WI
This was a much more difficult question to answer than I thought it would be. With an unlimited supply of Lego’s, there are an unlimited number of things one could build.
Many, many ideas come to mind, but I’ve winnowed them down to two.
1. First off, I would build a stadium around the Athletic Field, and I’d like to include a retractable roof so that summer games of CTF on the AF could be played out-of-doors. The stadium would include a seating capacity of 25,000 fans, which would make the annual tilt against the staff of nearby Camp Chi a raucous soccer atmosphere. Additionally, there would be concession stands that would sell snacks, but the snacks would be made of Lego’s, so really you’d just be buying Lego’s.
2. For a while now, I’ve been interested in purchasing the Lego Millennium Falcon. The price tag is a bit steep, but if I had an unlimited supply, then I’d like to build a Millennium Falcon. However, I wouldn’t build a model sized Falcon. Nay. If the Lego’s are unlimited, then obviously I’m going to build a full sized replica. We’ll park the Falcon down on the tennis court and tours will be available every hour on the hour.
Q: Where do you hope Camp Gray to be (metaphorically) in five years? In ten?
– Taylor E., Madison, WI
As you know, Taylor, here at Camp Gray, we refuse to dream small. So please, sit back and allow me to dream big for approximately 120-289 words…
Over the past 15 years, many improvements have come to Camp Gray – many, many improvements, in fact! A few large-scale projects are needed in the next couple of years to allow us to catch up to the growth we’re experiencing and the growth we’re hoping for both in the summer and during the school year. Within five years, our goal is to have a new dining hall, a new gymnasium, an updated athletic field (not necessarily with a Lego stadium built around it), and some additional staff housing. Once these projects are complete, the physical aspect of Camp Gray will be sitting pretty for the next 30-75 years. Sure, there will always be various improvements needed here and there, but those listed are critical foundational components that are simply a necessity.
Once these projects have been completed, we’ll be set to expand our Summer Camp a scosh, and we’ll be well equipped to expand and broaden our year-round ministry opportunities, as well. For instance, Jeff and Reba are passionate about facilitating more Family Camp opportunities. In five years (or less), with these improvements under our belts, countless many more people will have the opportunity to be impacted by a Camp Gray experience.
Where we’ll be in 10 years is quite a bit more difficult to predict. If this five year forecast is accurate, then our hope would be that by 2027, Camp Gray would be an even more well-oiled machine, welcoming double the numbers we see presently during a given year. We’re always dreaming of big ways to continue taking our year-round and Summer Camp to new heights. Who knows where 10 more years of dreaming will take us?
One thing is for sure: by 2027, hopefully we’ll have successfully hosted the inaugural GRAYlapalooza.
Q: What’s the best Camp Gray meal you’ve ever had?
***Note: The term “Camp Gray meal” may refer to any organized meal paid for by Camp Gray and consumed during working hours. Staff training meals, trail grub, and year-round goodies may all be in consideration.
Taylor E., Madison, WI
Up in the northernmost part of Minnesota, in the sleepy town of Grand Marais, you’ll find My Sister’s Place. Many years ago, I found myself leading a Voyageur Trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. For 10 days, in the height of summer mosquito season, I – along with my co-trip leader, Gina Pignotti – led a group of four campers over many miles of lakes and portage trails. Throughout our time in the BWCAW, we saw several moose, countless eagles, and a lifetime supply of mosquitoes. It remains one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences from my time at Camp Gray, and it was all capped off, on the last day, with a trip to My Sister’s Place.
After 10 days of roughing it on trail, and after 10 days of eating trail food, we were excited for a meal prepared by someone else on anything other than our WhisperLite stove. We pulled our boats off the water on that last morning, loaded up our trailer, and drove into town to find some grub.
My Sister’s Place is a cute little family restaurant with classic menu items and the drinks are served in mason jars. The ambiance is sublime and the food is delicious. Perhaps most importantly, the staff was warm and friendly, despite our horrendous stench that no doubt wafted through the restaurant ruining the appetites of the other patrons present that day.
Thanks My Sister’s Place!
Q: What is your favorite song to rock out to while driving down Shady Lane Road?
Dan S., Madison, WI
Rather than typing the answer to your question, I’m going to answer by simply inviting you to click this link so you can experience the goodness of my favorite song to rock out to while driving down Shady Lane Rd.
Q: What is your favorite Camp Gray Film?
Tricia E., Boise, ID
Many film studios specialize in but one genre (I don’t actually know if that’s true, but I’m going to proclaim it as true because it fits my narrative…), but Camp Gray Films goes beyond genres. We don’t just stick with one style of film. Rather, we dabble in a little bit of everything. From dramas, to comedies, to musicals, to thrillers, to action flicks, you’ll find the CG Films logo at the end of many styles of video.
All that being said, after more than 200 films (viewed in more than 100 countries approximately 130,000 times), my favorite video remains the tribute to Tom on his 74th birthday. Turning 74 is a big deal, but it’s not a milestone – that comes when you turn 75. While we wanted to celebrate Tom, we wanted to make it clear that the song was actually for next year’s birthday – the milestone birthday.
Q: What is your favorite leftover to eat at Camp Gray?
Peter M., Buffalo, NY
We don’t do Taco Tuesdays at Camp Gray – instead we do Mexican Miercoles. We’re not anti-Taco Tuesdays, there’s simply a logistical scheduling issue that prevents us from traveling south of the border on Tuesdays. I won’t bore you with the details. This bit of information is important to know, because back in the day (The “day” I’m referring to were Wednesdays in 2013), though Mexican Miercoles was a huge hit for campers and staffers alike, there were always leftover soft tortillas. The extra delicious flour cylinders of goodness would be placed into a large plastic bag and then put into the “leftovers fridge”.
Most days during Summer Camp, there’s precious little time to sneak away for leftovers, that is, until evening, after the campers have gone to sleep. After lights out, our staffers split duties – half stick around the cabins for coverage, while the other half are able to take some time to catch up with friends, pray in the chapel, and of course grab some snacks.
During Summer 2013, on the Wednesday nights that former staffer Ryan McGrath wasn’t on coverage, he’d go hunting for that massive plastic bag full of awesomeness. He’d have an extra hitch in his get-along those nights, as he would journey all over camp carrying that large, clear bag chock-full of soft tortillas. Like Santa distributing presents, Ryan would toss out soft tortillas to anyone he’d come across. There were no toppings for the tortillas and they were ice cold, but man oh man, they hit the spot.
Q: What has been the most legendary sighting at Camp Gray? Walter? A helicopter? Or perhaps something more… dangerous?
Dan S., Madison, WI
There has been no shortage of legendary sightings at Camp Gray over the years. We’ve had visits from albino peacocks, a helicopter, a 27-foot long hot dog, a fire truck, an enormous orange fish, Santa Claus, a dunk tank, a Culver’s Independence Day Parade Float, and a hatchback with a moose on top, among many, many others…
The most legendary? Hands down… This.
Q: What will each year-round staffer be patron saint of? Why?
Gabby Johnson, Madison, WI
Gabby, this, my friend, might be my most favorite question that I’ve ever received in the long and storied history of the Tuesdays with Topher Mailbag. How fun it was to spend a bit of time reflecting on the many gifts, talents, and personalities of each of Camp’s year-round staffers.
I took “year-round” to mean those that serve on our full-time staff. Our SaLT Missionaries deserve their day in the sun, too, but today I’ll just tackle the full-timers. Before the SaLT Missionaries have finished their time serving at Camp Gray (in late-May), I’ll post again with my thoughts on what each of them should be patron saints of.
Without further adieu, let’s get do some canonizing!
Tom Thill (The Man) – The elder statesman of Camp Gray, Tom is the longest tenured employee at Camp Gray. He has served Camp Gray faithfully for more than 20 years, ensuring that Camp Gray is looking and running great. Tom is a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Camp Gray wouldn’t be the same without Tom and his commitment to his work and to those close to him.
For that, Tom will be the Patron Saint of LOYALTY!
Tricia Sanborn (Guest Services Manager) – The voice you hear most often when you call Camp Gray is that of The Tricia Sanborn. If you were to stop out to the office at Camp Gray, Tricia would most likely be the person to greet you – she’s the warm first impression many have of Camp Gray. In Tricia’s spare time, she can be found making greeting cards, or traveling to Disney, or making Disney themed greeting cards.
For that, Tricia will be the Patron Saint of WARM HAPPY GREETINGS!
Nathan Heit (Property Manager) – Nate epitomizes the values and hard work of what it means to be an American. He’s generous with his time, he’s hard working, and when you’re in a pinch, he’s the first person many people call. Not to mention, he served in the U.S. Army for six years and was awarded a purple heart during a tour in Iraq. Oh, and his favorite colors are Red, White, & Blue.
For that, Nate will be Patron Saint of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA!
Virginia Kruschke (Chef Extraordinaire) – A wizard at all things baking, broiling, frying, mixing, sautéing, and any other type of kitchen “ing’s”, Virginia keeps all of us at Camp Gray well fed. A farmer by trade, her days start early as she rises to feed her many animals, then she arrives at Camp Gray to feed us crazy animals.
For that, Virginia will be Patron Saint of ANY FOOD PREPARED IN SUCH A WAY THAT MAKES YOU SAY, “YUMMMMMMM!”
Clair Kurzynski (Program Director) – When she’s not overseeing the year-round retreat schedule at Camp Gray, Clair can be found either in the out-of-doors enjoying nature or in the in-of-doors letting her artsy side out. Whether she’s painting, drawing, stenciling, crafting, or throwing clay creations into her kiln (okay, one of these things isn’t 100% accurate), Clair finds loads of joy in the creation of beautiful things. Speaking of beauty, Pope John Paul II once said, “Beauty is the vocation bestowed on the artist by the Creator in the gift of artistic talent.”
For that, Clair will be Patron Saint of ART!
Mark Sanborn (Technology & Maintenance) – Mark is a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. In addition to overseeing our vehicle fleet, ensuring that they’re all performing at top-notch levels, Mark quarterbacks much of the technology pieces of Camp’s operation (telephones, internet, computer software updates, etc.). Without him our vehicles wouldn’t run and our technology wouldn’t work, meaning the rest of us would be stuck at Camp with no way to alert anyone of our predicament. That’s a lot of responsibility for one guy, which is why Mark will be Patron Saint of RESPONSIBILITY. (For instance, if there was a kid – we’ll call him Brian – that was shirking his responsibilities, you could say, “Responsibility Mark isn’t happy with you right now, Brian.”)
Haley Lippy (Assistant to the Director) – Joyfully helping Jeff and Rebecca with countless clerical and organizational tasks this school year, Haley brings her A-game to the office each day. Haley is easy to laugh and she is rarely seen without a smile on her face – qualities which help to keep those long winter days that we’re dreaming of summer, much brighter and warm.
For that, Haley will be Patron Saint of SUNSHINE!
Jeff Hoeben (Co-Executive Director) – Along with his wife, Rebecca (aka: Reba), Jeff has been steering the Camp Gray ship since January 1st of 2008. A big picture, 30,000 feet up, jack-of-all-trades kind-of-guy, Jeff is at his best when he’s asked to put his 20+ years of camping experience to work. Whether he’s leading goofy songs, raising big money for capital improvements, pitching in with kitchen prep, proof reading my long-winded blog posts, or giving masterful jump-serve advice on the sand volleyball court, Jeff does it all.
For that, Jeff will be the Patron Saint of PANTOLOGY!
Rebecca Hoeben (Co-Executive Director) – Along with her husband, Jeff (aka: Hoebey-Wan Kenobi), Rebecca has been steering the Camp Gray ship since January 1st of 2008. Reba was a camper at Camp Gray back in the 90s and served on our Summer Camp Staff in the early 2000s, giving her an intimate knowledge of the impact the mission of Camp Gray can have on young people. A mother of three, she’s more accurately the mother of 60 each summer as she takes on the motherly role of our entire staff.
For that, Rebecca will be Patron Saint of MOMS!
Thanks for tuning in, friends! Do you have any questions for the next installment of the wildly popular Tuesdays with Topher Mailbag? Send them here! Check out the first, second, third, and fourth mailbag!