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9/17/2013 1:53:00 PM
'Not Bible study in the woods': Camp is for everyone
CYO/Camp Howard photo
Justice Gbada and fellow counselors John Tomassi and Nick Paino.
CYO/Camp Howard photo
Justice Gbada and fellow counselors John Tomassi and Nick Paino.
Clarice Keating
Of the Catholic Sentinel

Not all of the children who go to Camp Howard are Catholic. Children of all faith backgrounds are welcomed. However, the people who run the camp don’t water down its religious tradition.

“Everyone is welcome, but we’re not going to be something we’re not,” said Bill Fogarty, camp director.

Children gather for a closing Mass Friday mornings, and Father Pat Walsh explains how campers who aren’t eligible to take Communion can sit and wait, or come up and indicate they would like a blessing. Most of the children go up for a blessing, Fogarty said.  

Karen Wilson’s son Justice Gbada wanted to work as a camp counselor. They come from a non-Catholic household, but when mother and son began looking into different programs, Camp Howard rose to the top of the list.

“It was a very good fit for him,” Wilson said. “It was also a good fit from a Christian perspective; my son has always been interested in serving others.”

Justice is a senior at Madison High School, but previously attended Central Catholic, so he wasn’t unfamiliar with Mass. As a counselor in training, he has also been able to stay in touch with friends.

“Camp Howard was a way for him to stay connected with a community that was very accepting and supportive of him,” Wilson said.

Pamela Myers’ granddaughters have participated at Camp Howard in both counselor and camper roles. Jessica worked at the camp, and her younger sister Amanda attended camp on scholarship, and is now training to be a counselor.

“I can’t say enough about how dedicated the people there are to the children,” Myers said.

That kind of love transcends all religious backgrounds.

Though campers say grace before meals and gather at night for an invocation or prayer, it’s not a “church camp,” Fogarty said.

“It’s not Bible study in the woods,” he said. “This camp is about fun and getting kids out in nature.”

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