A youth does the free flight (named the “Leap of Faith”) from Tower #68 at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center on July 11. The tower’s name comes from the football jersey number of beloved camper Logan Davis. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC
Following Logan Davis’s legacy, Gasper campers share ‘support and encouragement’ through new activities
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Three years after the Catholic community in western Kentucky lost a beloved teen, his faith-filled impact is felt to this day by campers at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center.
This summer, youth attending the Bowling Green area camp have been able to remember Logan Davis in a tangible way with Tower #68, named after the teen’s Owensboro Catholic High School football jersey number.
The tower is located on Gasper’s newly-acquired 30-acre property, across the river from its existing 170-acre campus. The tower features beginner and advanced climbing walls, rappelling, and a free flight named the Leap of Faith.
“The kids have really taken to Tower #68,” said Ben Warrell, the director of the camp and retreat center, which is a ministry of the Diocese of Owensboro. “Getting to share Logan’s story with any kid who does the tower is a really powerful moment.”
Davis, a rising senior and 6-foot-3, 320-pound offensive guard and defensive tackle, died on July 11, 2020, following a one-vehicle automobile accident in Owensboro.
In addition to his committed faith, loyal friendship, and deep love for his mom and sister, Davis was a regular at Gasper, always cheering on his fellow summer campers.
In a September 2020 interview with The Western Kentucky Catholic, Warrell shared that Davis had a particular love for Jesus in the Eucharist after experiencing Adoration at Gasper as a middle schooler.
In that article, Warrell said he believes it was in Adoration that Davis realized “we’re not made for this world: we’re made for something greater” and described the youth as someone who “wasn’t going to judge you; he would love you for who you are.”
Speaking to the WKC on July 11, 2023, three years to the day that Davis passed away, Warrell said he has witnessed that same spirit echoed in the campers who come to Gasper today.
“Seeing that support and encouragement of each other is just beautiful,” said Warrell, noting that this is especially seen among participants of Tower #68.
Whether it is kids cheering for a fellow camper about to jump out on the Leap of Faith, or youth shouting advice and encouragement to their peers on the climbing wall, Warrell said he feels Davis’s legacy.
“Having a new challenge (with Tower #68) is just a beautiful thing to see them stretch themselves,” he said, which offers the opportunity “to continually challenge these young people to grow as people and in their faith as well.”
Tower #68 is only one of the new features at camp this summer.
Gasper has become known for its dedication to the Catholic faith, including Mass, Adoration, confession, and small groups, as well as its challenging activities like the zipline, team-building games, giant swing, vertical playground, and more.
But this year, Gasper has introduced “tracks” so campers can participate in even more activities. This includes baking, nature, sports, and survival.
“It’s been great to see friendships blossom because of disc golf or making pretzels,” said Warrell. “It helps the kids get to know each other better by sharing their likes.”
“Little changes” like these tracks provide “something new to challenge them and help them grow,” said Warrell.
Camps continue to be offered for a wide range of ages – Explorer Camp (third and fourth grade), Expedition Camp (fifth and sixth grade), Quest Camp (seventh and eighth grade), and Camp LIFE (high school and graduated seniors), which stands for “Live It For Eternity.”
Warrell and his staff look forward to some much-needed updates to camp this fall.
“In November we plan to begin widening and paving the driveway,” he said, in reference to the long, winding gravel entryway.
They also look forward to launching their first capital campaign since Gasper opened in 2007. With these funds, they hope to build a bridge across the river, so they no longer need to drive groups of campers up the street to get from the original property to the new property with Tower #68.
Warrell said that post-Covid, they have seen an uptick of more than 30 retreats a year, including more adult retreats. This summer Gasper is at approximately 450 youth campers, bumping them above even pre-Covid numbers.
“We’ve been intentional about inviting the Holy Spirit,” he said, adding that he was once advised, “if you don’t dream big, you’re putting limits on what you believe God can do.”
He is also encouraged by notes that he often receives from parents, such as a mom whose son did not originally want to come to camp, but now he wants to return next year – as well as wanting to attend Mass more often.
“I’ve been blown away by what the Holy Spirit has done this summer,” he said.
In their own words…
“I’ve been coming to Gasper for 11 years. I started coming in third grade. My favorite thing this summer has been the new tower.”
-Landon Shupe, class of ’23 high school graduate from Marshall County, who is serving as a SIT (Staff In Training) this summer
“I’ve seen myself grow tremendously as a Catholic as well as a person. My greatest hope for camp is for it to grow even more – for more kids to come and even consider becoming staff themselves.”
-Caroline Long, first-year staff member from Hopkinsville, who attended as a camper for six years
“The activities and learning the different elements can transform your faith. My favorite is the Jacob’s ladder because of the teamwork.”
-Braxton McCoy, rising junior from Bowling Green
Originally printed in the August 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.