By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold

After 17 blog posts, it’s finally time to answer some reader emails. Over the course of the past four months, feedback and questions have been rolling in at an unprecedented rate (unprecedented because there is no precedence to the Tuesdays with Topher mailbag feature…).

It’s not too early to submit emails for the next Tuesdays with Topher Mailbag…  Do you have questions (about CG, sports, faith, coffee… anything!) for the next quarterly/semi-regular Tuesdays with Topher mailbag?  Email!

Without further adieu, I give you the first addition of the quarterly/semi-regular Tuesdays with Topher Mailbag. These are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: In your VERY experienced career at Camp Gray, what has been the most exciting moment to ever happen to you?

– Kacey, Madison, WI

Back during Summer Camp 2009, I had the great privilege of counseling a group of campers in the Adventure program. There was a camper in the group named Mark. This is his story:

Mark bought a brand new Camp Gray hat his first day at Camp, and by the second day, the hat had been misplaced (we don’t lose things at Camp Gray). It was apparent to his counselors and to the rest of his cabin group that Mark was pretty bummed about the missing hat. The group immediately rallied around Mark and dedicated the rest of the week to tracking down the hat.

The last day of camp came, and there was still no sign of the missing hat. The group penned a song in a last ditch effort to spread the word about the missing hat. Mark’s cabin group also recruited Camp’s arts and crafts specialist to design a poster with a sketch of the missing hat and the text of “Mark Lost His Hat.” – to be hung in the pavilion (where all camp meals take place).

Unbeknownst to anyone in the pavilion during the singing of the new smash hit single, “Mark Lost His Hat,” Jeff, Camp Gray’s co-director, fatefully stumbled across the missing hat. As the song finished, there was a brief moment of silence as 400 eyes scanned the pavilion in the hopes that Mark’s hat would suddenly appear. When no hat appeared, disappointment began to fill the Camp Gray pavilion. Mark and his cabin group slowly began finding their seats with looks of defeat on their faces.

Then, as if prodded providentially, Jeff flung open the pavilion’s double doors and pulled from behind his back a simple hat. The pavilion erupted into a scene of joy and pandemonium. (It was such an unlikely and miraculous timing of events, that even to this day, some people feel as though the entire occasion was staged…) Mark and his fellow cabin mates couldn’t believe their eyes. Sure, it was only a hat, but that hat was responsible for uniting not only a cabin group but all 200 people present that day.

Grown men cried that day, my friends. Well, at the least, there were certainly misty eyes…

Q: What is friendship?

– Mariana, LaCrosse, WI

Sometimes I ponder the origin of words. And sometimes, while pondering, I just kind of start talking about the first thing that pops into my head when I think of this word. And sometimes, along the way, I talk my way into a pretty legitimate definition. I am hoping that is what is about to happen.

The first friend ship.

I’m guessing there was once a bunch of friends on a boat, and someone said, “This is a friend ship!” Now that I think about it, likely this was on the Ark. Noah had his family, and every animal had a buddy. The friend ship set sail for 40 days enduring a trial none of us can imagine. Noah, being a good guy, probably used corny jokes like, “This is a friend ship!” to keep his family sane and to entertain the animals on the long journey. Although, after a while, the corny jokes were probably driving his family insane and the animals stopped being amused. Though his jokes may have gotten old, Noah willed the good of the others on the boat, and so he did everything he could to help them endure such a long and arduous journey.

And you know, surviving that adversity likely bonded Noah, his family, and those animals like nothing else ever before or after. Friendship was born. And this is the part where I begin to sound like I know what I’m talking about (even though I’m stealing St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of love). St. Thomas says that love is “to will the good of another “, but I think it works for true friendship, as well.

See, the best friendships are the most loving. And the most loving friendships are the ones where each friend desires only what is best for the other person, and is willing to work hard to make that person happy. This is why the Ark was a friend ship. Not only were the people on this ship laughing and having fun, but they were helping each other. Noah may not have wanted to put his family through this ordeal, and his family may have been a bit annoyed at the inconvenience. However, Noah knew that this was what was best for their lives, so he worked to make it happen. And good thing he did.

There you have it.

1. noun – to will the good of another
2. noun – a boat load of friends

Q: What is your favorite thing that happens during the “typical” Summer Camp ‘day in the life’ at Camp Gray?

– Rae, Madison, WI

Smiling! It’s my favorite!

One of my favorite daily tasks during Summer Camp is that I take lots of and lots of pictures. Capturing photos of hundreds of smiling campers and staff members each day puts a huge smile on my face. This may seem extremely cheesy, and not exactly the type of “thing” that you were looking for, but truly, my favorite thing that happens during a “typical” Summer Camp day is witnessing all of the joy – which is easy to spot because there are so many smiles.

Q: When will sky diving and bungee jumping be added into the Dream Sports Pod!?

– KC, North Branch, MN

While having both of these extreme activities would be extreme-ly cool, the feasibility is non-existent.

There was a “Camp Gray Bungee Jumping Exploratory” Committee established back during Summer Camp 1983, because it was around that time that Bungee Jumping fever was first sweeping the Midwest.

It was discovered early in the Exploring that Camp Gray is extremely flat. Extremely flat. This discovery was detrimental to the prospect of adding bungee jumping to the long list of Camp Gray activities. Turns out, to have quality bungee jumping, a platform of at least 500 feet is required. The rock wall tower stretches to an impressive 45 feet, and the roof of the ‘Joe’ peaks at a just-shy-of-the-requirement 24 feet.

As for sky diving, unfortunately, the sky above Camp Gray is restricted air space (probably to avoid obstructing the joy and prayers of campers and staff from wafting up to heaven…).

*Fine print – 89% of this response if fictional.

Q: There are so many exciting things going on this spring with the new basketball court, new swimming pool, and new schedule. However, not much has been made of the situation surrounding Walter’s expiring contract – and the inability so far to get a new contract signed. Are you concerned negotiations won’t get done and that Walter might refuse to sign his franchise tag in order to hold out for a bigger contract?

-Timmy C., Stevens Point, WI

Camp Gray’s enormous fish Walter can, for now, be found in the depths of Camp’s Lake Jake.

There has been an enormous amount of work done this school year to ensure that some glaring CG needs are remedied. These improvements will continue to put CG in the best position to positively impact the lives of every single one of our 1,200 campers this summer.

As you mentioned, this spring is seeing/will see improvements to the basketball court, the swimming pool, and the new daily schedule.

Another task which is at the top of our spring “to do” list is to lock Walter into a lucrative long term deal. As you probably know, Walter has been a part of the Camp Gray team since his birth in the early-70s. His current contract though, which was signed before the 1998 summer, expires next month.

Talks between Jeff & Rebecca and Walter’s agent, Peter Mittiga, have found an enormous gap between the two sides, and that a common ground may be harder to come by then originally thought.

Jeff & Rebecca are hoping to give Walter an 8-year 32 million worm contract. This’ll keep Walter – the undisputed face of Camp Gray’s wildlife and mythology departments – at Camp Gray until 2020. At that point, Walter will be 46, and will likely be looking into retirement due to the deterioration of skills.

Walter’s agent however, is demanding no less than a 14 year 63 million worm contract.

This is where the franchise tag comes into play. The franchise tag, similar to the franchise tag arrangement in the National Football League, was established by former Catholic Camp Association Commissioner Steven Torres just after the 1979 season.

The purpose of the tag, in theory, is for camps to be able to continue contract negotiations with a star mythical creature and not lose him in free agency. The practice often is that the camp just wants to lock up a mythical creature for one summer and see what happens.

Unfortunately, mythical creatures don’t like to get tagged. They often see it as an insult, not a compliment. They see it as an easy out for the team.

It’s not as though Camp Gray would get off scot-free; giving Walter the franchise tag would still cost Camp Gray upwards of 5 million worms just for the one season.

The reason for this is that a franchise mythical creature must be offered a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries of other mythical creatures at camps which are a part of the Catholic Camp Association, or 120 percent of the mythical creature’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater.

It is not chump change, mind you, but for mythical creatures with lengthy résumés and significant value, the franchise tag is not enough.

Jeff & Rebecca have until May 15th to either negotiate a new contract or put the franchise tag on Walter. Otherwise, Walter becomes a free agent, meaning he can walk (er, swim) to another CCA camp. It’s not a stretch to think Walter could get the 14-year contract he desires from another camp.

Voted by the Tuesdays with Topher crew as the most impressive beard south of Harrison Creek.

Q: What do you make of James Harden’s beard?

– Max, Gunnison, CO

For those not aware, James Harden plays professional basketball for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Also, for those unaware, Harden has an incredibly large beard. Though the entirety of the Tuesdays with Topher crew lacks the ability to grow quality beards, we’re in 100% full support of beards.


Thanks so much for tuning in, friends!  I hope you enjoyed the inaugural quarterly/semi-regular Tuesdays with Topher mailbag.  Again, it’s not too early to send in questions for the next quarterly/semi-regular Tuesdays with Topher mailbag.  So, do you have questions (about CG, sports, faith, coffee… anything!)?  Email!