This year Camp Gray celebrated its 50-year anniversary during its annual Founders' Day July 12.
'Warm spot in my heart'
Sowinski, a member of St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie, was one of the 75 people who attended the celebration.
She attended Camp Gray for the first time in 1979 when she was eight years old. After being a camper until she was 16, she then served as a counselor for three years. Her cousin is Fr. Larry Bakke, a former director of Camp Gray.
"Camp Gray has always had a warm spot in my heart," Sowinski said, noting how Camp Gray has grown and changed over the years. She plans for her own daughter, Sara, now only a few weeks old, to attend Camp Gray when she is old enough.
For Sowinski and so many others, the tradition of Camp Gray continues across the generations.
One Founders' Day attendee was Sandra Dunn, director of religious education at St. Patrick Parish, Cottage Grove, who has been involved with Camp Gray since her son, now 40, was eight. She remembers when the swimming pool was the pond, she said.
Other attendees included people such as Gwen and Jeff Kingston and their son, Thad, who has been coming to Camp Gray for 14 years and has been a counselor for the past three years. Gwen's parents, Pat and Ed Tourdot, were founders of Camp Gray.
Message of simplicity
Living simply is part of what children learn at Camp Gray.
Bishop Emeritus William H. Bullock emphasized this in his homily during the Founders' Day 50th anniversary Mass.
"As Jesus sent out his disciples and apostles, he said 'Bring a walking stick, no change of clothing.' It sounds like preparation for Camp Gray," the bishop said, remarking on the unique and powerful message in the values we learn from Camp Gray.
"When we come to Camp Gray we leave behind our designer clothes," he said, pointing out the sandals he wore as a "visual aid."
As a symbol of the kind of life we should live in a simple way, Bishop Bullock presented a wooden walking stick to John Karsten, chair of the Camp Gray Board of Directors, one who has shown his dedication and love for Camp Gray.
The bishop said in his move to his new apartment, he has discovered he has many "things," which he will donate to Camp Gray for a garage sale. The proceeds will go toward a capital campaign that is currently underway for Camp Gray. This was met with applause.
"What Camp Gray stands for is that we should live more simply than we do," he said. "We get encumbered and go beyond what we need. We need a walking stick and Camp Gray to show how beautifully you can live in healthy abandon."
Bishop Bullock asked those present to pick out things at their homes that they don't use, then donate them to Camp Gray for the annual garage sale.
He quoted Mother Teresa: "Live simply, that others may simply live."
"Let's carry our walking sticks, be simpler in our lifestyle, and give the world a better example of how to live more generously," he said.
After Mass, participants gathered for a meal honoring the Luke 22:26 Volunteer of the Year Chad Bauer, youth minister at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains, who has volunteered in various capacities for Camp Gray.
The Camp Gray Alumni Association also presented the camp with 11 photos in honor of Camp Gray founders, past directors, and staff members. Displayed in handmade wooden frames, the photos featured different eras of Camp Gray.
The photos were dedicated to: Msgr. Francis Xavier Gray, founder; Fr. Vincent Browne, director, 1954-58; Fr. Francis Schmidt, director, 1959-61; Fr. Kevin Cassidy, director, 1963-70; Fr. Bud Hollfelder, director, 1971-79; Fr. Larry Bakke, director, 1979-93; Jake Czarnik-Neimeyer, director, 1994-97; Phil DeLong, director, 1997-present; Ed and Pat Tourdot, founders; Helen Paquin, camp administrator, 1971-93; and Susan Wright, food service director, 1994-2002.