Commemorating 50 Years at Castaway

Over Labor Day weekend, nearly 300 people attended the 50th Anniversary Celebration at Young Life’s Castaway Club in Minnesota. In 1963, C. Gordon Smith, whose family owned the property and whose father was a dear friend of Jim Rayburn, learned of Young Life’s need for another camp. Believing it “too valuable to sell,” he and his wife, Isabel, gave the 26-acre property to Young Life. Since that time, about 200,000 kids have been campers at Castaway, many of whom have met Jesus Christ and experienced transformed lives.

​I did my first Young Life summer assignment at Castaway in the early 1990s. I was the outdoor work crew boss, serving under the direction of Castaway’s legendary groundskeeper, Marv Johnson. The best relationships happened with that small group of work crew kids — I wound up going to every one of their high school graduations, college graduations and weddings. There is something special about a place that engenders those kinds of friendships.”  

      — Wiley Scott, Field senior vice president, Eastern Division

Phil McDonald invited me to look at the camp before Young Life had it in 1963. I was a recreation major at the University of Minnesota and Phil wanted my opinion if I thought the property would make a good camp.  I remember pulling up and seeing the grounds, the bluff and the lake, and just knowing this would be a perfect venue for kids to meet Christ.” 

      — Wally Urban, former Chicago Young Life staff

What does Castaway mean to me? I spent 22 consecutive summers working here, met my wife here, and watched every member of my family become a Christian here — both my parents, my sister, and all my children. There aren’t words for what Castaway means to me.”  

      — Perry Hunter, director of Training Initiatives