MADISON -- It was a sight to behold -- the Camp Gray staff and volunteers decked out in suits and ties, dresses, and freshly polished dress shoes.
Not normally do the duties of running the Diocese of Madison’s summer camp and retreat center require such formal wear, but this was no normal evening.
On Saturday, April 17, at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison, Camp Gray hosted its first ever spring benefit dinner and silent auction.
Though this marked the first time Camp Gray had stepped out into the world of benefit dinners and silent auctions, the event exceeded our fundraising goals and was a success.
The decision to host a benefit dinner was conceived this past fall as a way to help bolster our camper scholarship fund, as well as increase funds for our lengthy “building improvement to-do list.”
Feel of a family reunion
There is an old adage at Camp Gray, “Come to camp for a day, leave a part of the Camp Gray family.”
This was apparent at the event as old friends reunited and new relationships were established. It truly did have the energy and feel of a family reunion, rather than a fundraiser.
Many current and former staff members, several families of current and past campers, and other supportive folks from the Madison area, who quickly became part of our family, were in attendance.
Additionally, the chef for the evening was Kevin Andraska, brother of one-half of camp’s co-directing team, Rebecca Hoeben. Kevin is the owner and executive chef of the South Shore Restaurant on Castle Rock Lake, and he prepared a delicious meal of beef tenderloin, wild mushroom risotto, and house veggies.
Successful silent auction
Before we sat down to enjoy the delicious meal, all in attendance had a rousing time taking part in the very successful silent auction.
Thanks to generous donations, the silent auction consisted of dozens of items ranging from tickets for the Packers, Brewers, and Badger hockey and football games, to fine pieces of art, a hand crafted footstool, and a customized fire ring donated by Endres Manufacturing. Additionally, there were weekend stays at the Wilderness and Chula Vista Resorts in the Dells, and much, much more.
A fierce bidding ‘war’
Leanne Tracy, a summer camp counselor majoring in painting and art history at the University of Kansas, skillfully sketched a dazzling camp-inspired piece of art entitled “Immersed in Light.” She used images of the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel and the Bakke Outdoor Chapel at Camp Gray as inspiration. Her work caught the eye of many — including Bishop Robert C. Morlino, who attended the evening.
Chris Van Wagner, father of four current or former Camp Gray campers (including a current staff member), was the emcee for the evening and was the bishop’s biggest arch-nemesis for Tracy’s work.
As the bidding for Tracy’s art raged through the hors d’oeuvres, the competition between these two became the main event, attracting a crowd of onlookers who were eager to provide cheers of encouragement. In the end, the bishop didn’t walk out with the artwork he desired, but he made sure he would not be outbid on another of the most desired items: a beautiful Marian icon.
Testimony by former campers, staff
During the meal, those in attendance were treated to talks by Clara Rose, a longtime camper, and Tim Chaptman, who will be on staff this summer for the sixth time.
Rose spoke about how instrumental the faith, friends, and fun at Camp Gray have been in her life. As a result of her seven summers as a camper, she has been inspired to serve on the Camp Gray staff — which she’ll be a part of for the first time this summer.
Chaptman shared a personal camp story — that he titled “James and the Special Blanket” — from a few summers back, when he was a counselor for a cabin group of Settlers (second to fifth graders). It was a terrific look at the impact our counselors have on the lives of hundreds of children each summer, in addition to the impact those children also have on our counselors.
Camp Gray’s co-directors, Jeff and Rebecca Hoeben, spoke near the end of the evening to share more about the mission of Camp Gray. They also spoke of the current needs Camp Gray has in order to keep providing the excellent programming folks have come to expect from Camp Gray.
The bathrooms of one of the oldest buildings on camp, the St. Vincent Retreat Center, were recently remodeled, and they shared their hopes to have the funds to remodel the rest of the building as early as next year. They also spoke of their appreciation for such a successful night.
Thanks to all those who attended our first ever benefit dinner, and thanks to all those who gave of their time and talent to ensure that the dinner would be a success.
Chris Aderhold is assistant director at Camp Gray.