Totus Tuus Camp at capacity; camp in need of new facilities

Eucharistic adoration is an integral part of Totus Tuus camp. (Courtesy photo)

The number of youth taking part in the Totus Tuus summer camp continues to climb, setting a new record this year with 576 campers attending in just seven weeks. Anthony Keiser, director of the Office of Faith Formation, said the program had more campers this year than it has ever had in its history and is at full capacity.

Totus Tuus is a Catholic summer youth program dedicated to sharing the Gospel and promoting the Catholic faith through catechesis, evangelization, Christian witness, and Eucharistic worship. Attendees are learning how to practice their faith while participating in hands-on activities, creating valuable friendships, and having fun.

“The Totus Tuus program has a remarkable and lasting impact on our young people,” Keiser said. “It has strengthened the faith of so many in our diocese and has even helped young people discern a call to the priesthood and religious life. Many have opted into signing up for camp after hearing about the positive experiences of their friends and family members.”

Many turned away

Since camp attendance was the highest it has ever been, many applicants had to be turned away due to the size and availability of the current camp near Lyons, Kansas.

“Right now, we can only accommodate 84 campers per week, so we had to turn down lots of people,” Keiser explained. “Registration opened on January 18 and within an hour two of the camps were completely sold out. Within a week, all but one was sold out and the last was nearly at capacity. Our waitlist had 112 campers on it.”

Being on a waitlist creates challenges for a family. “By the time camp comes around, even if there is a cancelation, most people have made other plans. The facilities have been great for the last 18 years, but now it has become a challenge to have to turn people away. Whether they’ve come to camp every year, this is a tradition in their family, or maybe they’re hoping to camp for the first time it is very sad to have to say to them, I’m sorry, we just don’t have the capacity.”

For years, the week-long overnight camp has been held at Camp WaJaTo near Lyons. While the current camp facility has served us well for nearly two decades, we have long dreamed of owning and operating a camp that could be used for Totus Tuus as well as many other events and programs for parishes, schools and various ministry groups.

Camp under development

One of the key elements of the diocesan-wide capital campaign recently announced by Bishop Carl A. Kemme includes the development of a 155-acre camp just 25 miles west and south of Hutchinson. The diocese is currently pursuing a property in Reno County that will be a great fit for the camp’s needs.

“We have explored many other locations throughout the years, but none have fulfilled our needs or had the facilities to house the large number of campers,” Anthony said. “The property we’re pursuing features a spring-fed lake, beautifully wooded trails, a number of existing structures, including a social hall and a cafeteria.”

Plans for the new camp include renovating the 12 existing buildings and adding cabins, a chapel, and other amenities to improve and enhance the overall experience.

New camp as early at 2024

“If all goes as planned, we’d like to complete some basic updates and maintenance that would allow us to begin hosting Totus Tuus camps in the new facility as early as summer 2024. This space would be able to host even more campers and extend Totus Tuus by two or three additional weeks next year.”

Funds raised during the campaign will also support an operations endowment to help offset the future costs of owning and operating the facility. This endowment will also provide funding every year in perpetuity for scholarships, ensuring that affordability is not a barrier for any family who desires a faith-filled camp experience for their child.

The camp program set another record this year with families requesting more scholarships than ever before to help offset the cost of attendance. In fact, about 20 percent of the campers received some form of financial aid in 2023.

“It takes a lot for families to request that kind of assistance, but many parents believe it is so important for their children to experience Camp Totus Tuus that they are willing to ask,” Anthony said. “And we are glad that they do. We just wish we could provide more scholarships and have room for even more campers.”

With the support of the Catholic community during the upcoming diocesan campaign, this vision and dream will become a reality, helping to inspire and form the next generation of disciples.

Campers embrace the faith

“Every year I see the campers build solid Christian relationships with each other and often form life-long friendships during their time at camp. It’s remarkable to see these campers embrace and live their faith, at camp and beyond. This is a truly transformational experience for so many young people across the diocese. It’s a real source of pride for our local Church.”

More details about the new camp and associated projects, as well as the other four capital campaign priorities, will be shared in the coming months. Please stay tuned for more information.