" So many kids have never gotten out of the city and slept in an outdoor setting, away from the immediate and unrelenting input from our modern world. It is an incredible transition from electronics and the artificial to the great outdoors. Add a good staff that works with these kids to explore nature and faith – that’s where the magic happens.

" Gary Epping
Gary Epping, president of the Epping Family Foundation, is a committed and longtime donor to Camp Howard and the CYO/Camp Howard Champions of Faith Benefit Dinner.

Gary comes from a strong Catholic family. His mother, Jeanette, and father, Larry, grew up in the Mount Angel Catholic community and were educated by Benedictine nuns and priests. Larry served on an aircraft carrier during World War II and, along with his brother Jerome, founded a construction business in the 1940s with very limited resources. The business grew substantially, with crews building homes, developments and communities all centered around Catholic values. The Epping Family Foundation began in 1997 to continue service through collaboration and giving to support youth in Catholic and community based groups.

Camp Howard today versus when Sister Krista von Borstel first took on responsibilities is radically different, says Gary. He deems the camp’s quality of services and retreats outstanding. Gary is impressed by how many kids participate — more than 6,000 annually — and he counts the stunning outdoor setting, the faith-based focus and kids making new friends among the significant benefits of the camp. Many other donors have shared similar impressions with Gary, who thinks the quality of the living quarters, new dining hall and welcome center are wonderful additions.

“The crown jewel will be the new chapel,” Gary says. “It will provide meeting areas for kids to explore their faith through conversation with each other. That’s how faith grows, through meaningful connections with friends, the church and others in the community.”

What makes Camp Howard so unique? Gary comes from a family of athletes and doers. He believes getting kids busy, away from their mobile screens, exercising and learning the value of working together are all vitally important parts of life. And he considers it a game changer to have the camp’s faith-based element where it is not taboo to have God in your life.

“So many kids have never gotten out of the city and slept in an outdoor setting, away from the immediate and unrelenting input from our modern world,” Gary says with emotion. “It is an incredible transition from electronics and the artificial to the great outdoors. Add a good staff that works with these kids to explore nature and faith — that’s where the magic happens.”

Gary’s professional background is construction and business. He encourages prospective donors to invest in youth, building skills to have a fulfilling life, connecting with others and developing faith in a community environment. The kids then can carry forward these investments to serving and helping others.

Over the years, Gary has gained respect for Sister Krista and her team who roll up their sleeves and get the work done.

“Sister Krista has garnered many amazing ways of getting community support,” he says. “And campers are inspired and challenged in a loving, warm and encouraging environment simply to be a kid.”

Epping is impressed with the breadth of high-quality people the CYO/Camp Howard staff have brought together, including Lou Holtz, Joe Weston, Elsie Franz Finley and many other influential and giving people. These supporters come together to help make CYO/Camp Howard’s mission a reality. Donors are working together in a collaborative, caring and complementary way, which in turn attracts more people to participate in the mission. Gary’s comfort level and commitment to Camp Howard remain strong.

“Gary Epping has been a remarkable friend to CYO and Camp Howard,” says Sister Krista. “I am so grateful that Gary and the Epping Family Foundation Board are so supportive of our vision to enrich lives and build a stronger faith community by bringing Jesus Christ to youth through sports and camp participation. Their love for programs that support youth is evident. The impact that the Epping Family Foundation has made to CYO and Camp Howard is inspirational.”