Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Campers and staff spend an afternoon participating in outdoor activities during Camp LIFE (Live It For Eternity) at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center on July 8, 2021. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC

Family’s first time at camp

How to help your child – and yourself – prepare for their first Gasper River experience


Our 17th summer of camp at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp is quickly approaching. Maybe, as a parent, you’ve heard of camp but don’t know anything about it and may even be a little nervous about sending your child to camp. We completely understand! This is a big decision and it can be nerve-wracking for parents to send their kids away. Here are a few things that we’d love for you to know about camp at Gasper River.

First of all, safety is our top priority for every person who comes through our gate. Not just their physical safety, but their mental and emotional safety as well. Young people can’t grow if they don’t feel safe, so we work incredibly hard to have a safe and secure campus. The summer staff and volunteer counselors go through extensive training to keep kids safe in all areas of their camp experience. We want kids to come to camp, to feel safe here, to encounter Jesus in ways they never have before – and we want them to come back and continue to grow in holiness! Everyone here has gone through Safe Environment training, and no one is ever alone here at camp. There are supervisory adults everywhere, with eyes out at all times, ensuring that everything is proper for these young people to fully enjoy camp.

Homesickness is the biggest issue that we deal with at summer camp. Our staff and volunteers go through detailed training to help young people adjust to being away from family. We will allow campers to call home if they need to, but our staff will reach out first to make the parents aware of the situation. If a child is completely miserable at camp we will recommend that they get picked up. If, however, they are having fun and only get down at quiet times or at night, we know that they will make it and we will build them up and encourage them to keep going. We want young people to enjoy their experience at camp and come back again and again (and maybe even work here in the future!) We have found over the years that parents who tell their children, “If you’re not having fun to call and we’ll come get you,” almost always end up picking up their kids. Gently encourage your child to be open to all the amazing adventures and opportunities to grow in faith that camp has to offer! Having a friend, sibling or cousin at camp is a great way to help fight homesickness, too. Parents, we are in this with you and want what’s best for your children and families.

Families will be given access to our camp app so they can check out all the fun activities and adventures their child is experiencing at camp. Phone lines are monitored 24/7 during camp, and we are always available to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

We strongly encourage you to come and visit camp if you’ve never been here before. We love getting to know our camp families and love showing off all that camp has to offer.  It does help for young people to see where they will be going and how things are set up here before they come for their week of camp. Just call our office at (270) 781-2466, and we can set up your visit or answer any questions you may have about camp. We realize that we are not just ministering to the camper, but to the entire camper’s family as well. When you drop off your child at camp, we want you to know that we care about your child and desire great things for them and for you! We want you to leave knowing that your child is in great hands and is going to have the adventure of a lifetime at camp!

We exist to serve the families of the Diocese of Owensboro. We understand the incredible amount of trust that is takes to send your child to a sleep-away camp and we take that very seriously. Camp is a wonderful opportunity for your child to grow in faith, self-esteem and self-confidence. It is a place of encounter and accompaniment and a place to make friends that will last a lifetime. We greatly look forward to seeing you this summer at Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp. We are honored and humbled to have you place your trust in us with your children and you are always in our prayers.

Ben Warrell is the director of Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center, located in Bowling Green, Ky.

Learn more about Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp and Retreat Center and find out how to register for the 2024 camp season at

Originally printed in the March 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
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