Gasper River to bring traveling day camps to youth around western Kentucky

‘Gasper on the Go’ to take place in eight cities within the diocese


BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC

7/2/2020 Update: Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center announced on June 30 that due to lack of registrations, all but two locations have since been cancelled. They will be in Owensboro on July 7-9 and Fancy Farm on July 21-24. If you would like to change your registration, please contact them at gasperriverretreatcenter.org.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center from having camp on location this year – so they’ve decided to bring camp to the kids.

“We didn’t want the (coronavirus) to stop us from having a camp experience,” said Ben Warrell, the director of Gasper. The camp and retreat center is owned by the Diocese of Owensboro and this would have been its 13th year of summer camp.

Warrell told The Western Kentucky Catholic that initially, he and diocesan officials were concerned that they simply would have to cancel camp, and sadly have nothing available for the young people who had looked forward to Gasper’s activities. There was just too much uncertainty to be able to provide a safe, fun and challenging summer.

But then Warrell was struck with inspiration – or more likely, the Holy Spirit.

What if teams of Gasper staff drove to different parish locations around the diocese throughout the summer, and, following state and diocesan safety guidelines, coordinated “day camp” experiences for local youth?

And that’s how Gasper on the Go was born.

Currently, Gasper is scheduled to have a team at St. Thomas More in Paducah and another team at St. Pius X in Owensboro during the week of July 7-9. For the week of July 14-16, teams will be at Holy Name of Jesus in Henderson and Christ the King in Madisonville. July 21-23 will see teams at St. Jerome in Fancy Farm and Sts. Peter and Paul in Hopkinsville, and July 28-30 will feature teams at Holy Spirit in Bowling Green and at John Paul II School in Morganfield.

The three-day weeks will feature morning sessions from 8:30-11:30 a.m. for incoming third through sixth graders, and afternoon sessions from 1-4 p.m. for incoming middle school and high school aged youth.

“The theme for this summer is Community,” said Warrell, referencing the Diocese of Owensboro’s “Living as Missionary Disciples” evangelization initiative, which is in its third year (previous years having themes of Encounter and Accompany).

He said it makes sense that Gasper’s “Community” year will take place at campers’ own “communities” – their home parishes.

While youth might have a week-long faith experience away at Gasper, Warrell pointed out that the parish family is where youth have the opportunity to get involved and actively grow in their faith year-round.

Warrell said a “typical” day at Gasper on the Go will open with prayer, have some “get to know you” games and high-movement games, and take a break to teach on the theme of Community.

The day camp will also feature “small group discussion, singing praise-and-worship songs, doing an arts-and-crafts project and ending the day with more crazy games,” said Warrell. “We’ll also have saints of the days and teachings on miracles and ‘wonder and awe moments’ in our faith.”

Warrell emphasized that Gasper’s goal will be not to interfere with other events and activities already going on at the parishes: “We’re here to serve.”

The cost is $75 for the first tier or $65 for the second tier, though as always, Gasper encourages families to pay what they can afford. Any additional immediate sibling will only cost $50. All campers will receive a Gasper on the Go t-shirt and a camp photo.

Warrell said they will reach out to each health department where they will be hosting camps in order to “follow any guidelines they and the state have laid out.”

“They change from week to week so we’ll update families before we come of what needs to take place to have camp safely,” he said.  “The campers and their families’ safety is our primary concern.”

Gasper on the Go will also comply with all diocesan guidelines.

Another highlight of Gasper’s 2020 change of plans is their new Family Retreats option for this summer. Since social distancing does not apply to people who live in the same home, families are invited to head to Gasper for the day or to stay a few nights in a lodge.

Warrell said families can bring their own meals or request catered meals from Gasper; hike and explore; and do activities together.  All of the locations will be cleaned and sanitized to ensure families’ safety.

Warrell expressed gratitude that “everybody we’ve talked to has been really supportive.”

In fact, a June 19 post on Gasper’s Facebook page said that, “Every day this week, when we have checked the mailbox, there has been another generous donation to Gasper River! Thank you so much to all those who give so generously to support this ministry in so many amazing ways! May God bless you!!!”


Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic

Register today!

In addition to Gasper on the Go, Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center will offer family retreats on location this summer.

To register for Gasper on the Go, or for more information and pricing details, call (270) 781-2466 or visit https://gasperriverretreatcenter.campbrainregistration.com.

To find out more or to make a Family Retreat reservation, call (270) 781-2466 or email [email protected].

To make a donation, visit https://gasperriverretreatcenter.campbraingiving.com.