Dads, kids share faith and fun at yearly camping trip

| July 2, 2015 | 0 Comments
Steve Ray, right, of St. Rose of Lima in Roseville leads prayer before dinner at the start of the annual dads and kids camping trip June 26 at Eau Galle Recreation Area near Spring Valley, Wisconsin. Joining in them prayer are Danny Enge, left, Katie Ray, Matt Barrett and Sarah Bakko. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Steve Ray, right, of St. Rose of Lima in Roseville leads prayer before dinner at the start of the annual dads and kids camping trip June 26 at Eau Galle Recreation Area near Spring Valley, Wisconsin. Joining in them prayer are Danny Enge, left, Katie Ray, Matt Barrett and Sarah Bakko. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Every June, the doughnut supply in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, gets depleted. A rush of dads and their children from St. Rose of Lima church and school in Roseville descend on this small town during their annual summer camping trip, which they have been doing for the last 11 years.

The group of 56 pitches their tents at nearby Eau Galle Recreation Area on a Friday night, hangs out and plays games throughout the weekend, then heads to Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church before an hourlong trip back home.

Mostly, the 16 families have fun, and attending Mass together is a given. The members of the local parish have enjoyed this annual influx of outsiders to the point of now hosting a special “doughnut Sunday” for the group after Mass.

“We had gone there a couple of years, and they had recognized the group,” said trip organizer Steve Ray. “They have a doughnut Sunday the first Sunday of every month. It must have been that we hit July 1 one of the [earlier] years. We got there for Mass and they were completely unprepared for this extra influx of people. So, they had to run out to the store and buy extra stuff so they’d have enough doughnuts for their doughnut Sunday.”

At least one of the kids calls the Mass at Sacred Heart a highlight of the trip. Some of those “kids” are now adults. On this year’s trip, which took place June 26-28, there were several 25-year-olds who have been going since the first trip. One of them is engaged to be married and asked to keep coming after the wedding.

No problem, said Ray, who came up with the idea after attending two similar camping trips with dads from St. Charles Borromeo in St. Anthony. His oldest child, Katie, 19, has made the trip every year and said she plans to keep coming.

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Megan Ray, left, goes through the food line with other kids and dads on the first evening of the camping trip. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

And why not? Several of her friends came in from out of town this year to attend, one all the way from Michigan. They enjoyed swimming at a nearby beach and s’mores by a campfire that burns almost constantly throughout the weekend. But, they had a mission this year, as they do every year: Beat the boys in volleyball.

“We have a boys-against-girls volleyball game, and it’s mainly high schoolers and college kids,” said Katie, who will be a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul in the fall. “And, basically every year the boys beat us. But we never really own up to it. So, whenever we talk about the games, we talk about how the girls just pummeled the boys. The smack talk is real. For a month, we’ve been like, ‘Boys, are you training for our game?’ We have group [text] messages about how they’re going to lose, even though they probably won’t.”

And, once again, the boys prevailed in the game. Amid the fun, campers took a break at lunchtime, which always begins with prayer.

“While everyone is gathered around the picnic table, we say grace as a group,” said Steve, who also brought his other daughter, Megan, 17, and son Jimmy, 14 (both attend Totino-Grace High School in Fridley). “Are we proclaiming the Gospel through that? I suppose so. Otherwise, it’s just showing the kids that it’s important, even down at the beach, to give thanks [to God].”

This year, like every year, the weather cooperated, with sunshine ruling the skies for the three days. In fact, no trip has ever been rained out.

But, that doesn’t mean threatening weather never shows up.

“Three or four years ago, there was a big storm that came through the Twin Cities. We are due east, so this storm was coming our way,” Steve said. “You could see this big red blob on the weather radar coming our way. I’m not going to claim a miracle or anything, but it was interesting to watch that big red blob part around us. We still got a lot of rain. One tent ended up going down in the rain, but we were spared the worst of it, definitely. The worst of it went north and south of us.”

So, what do moms like Theresa Ray do while their husbands are camping with the kids? They get together at each other’s homes or go out to eat. Generally, they enjoy their time at home alone, another benefit of the trip, which always falls on the last weekend in June.

There’s a running joke that moms aren’t allowed to come. They also aren’t allowed to hear what goes on at camp — like how last year one dad loaded a deep fryer into his pickup truck so that the group could enjoy treats not usually associated with camping.

“We had a lot of fried foods last year, which was really neat,” Steve said. “Anything you could imagine being fried, we had — corn dogs and French fries and onion rings.”

And, on top of that, doughnuts on Sunday. But, the moms will overlook the nutritional slip for one weekend out of the year. There are different standards of conduct for the dads during the trip.

“The moms’ rule is they just have to come back with the right number of children,” Theresa joked. “It doesn’t have to be the right children, but at least bring the same number of children home so we know they’re all home.”

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