Camp Dudley has established a Memorial Fund in honor of Camper #20804, Charlie Gillis. Charlie was killed in an automobile accident September 25, 2018 in Kansas City, KS while driving back to K.U. from his home in St. Louis, where he had spent a joyful weekend with his parents.
Charlie was a beloved member of the Dudley & Kiniya community, arriving at camp as a Cub in 2008 and enjoying all four camper summers. Said one of his instructors, Rev. Bill Harper, “I’ll never forget his first rock climbing experience, when he was 12. He wasn’t the most skilled rock climber in our group, but he was by far the most determined.”
He then participated in the Dudley NOLS program in Wyoming in 2012 returning as an Aide and JL in the following years. In the summers of 2016 and 2017, Charlie joined the Hike Hut staff where he was able to express his love of the outdoors. Last summer, he returned to camp in August to help in whatever way he could around campus, including a memorable performance on the Witherbee stage with his buddy, #24435 Charlie Payne.
Charlie’s experience was highlighted by the deep personal connections he made with so many during each summer at Camp. His dazzling smile, gigantic heart, and adventurous spirit spoke to the very best aspects of our camps. It was at Dudley that Charlie learned the motto that became central to his life, “The Other Fellow First.” A fellow camper he didn’t know well recently shared her college essay about a Dudley NOLS 3-week hiking trip. She and Charlie were 14-years-old, and she was desperately trying to make a difficult climb up an unforgiving mountain—falling behind the rest of the group. She was ready to give up and ended up dropping her pack part way up the climb—the only way she could possibly continue. At the summit, when Charlie discovered her despair, he quietly hiked back down, retrieved her pack and brought it up to her with a simple smile. That was Charlie. Always taking the time to slow down and find the time to help others.
All gifts made to the Charlie Gillis Memorial Fund will be used to construct the Charlie Gillis Climbing Tower, which is expected to be ready for the summer of 2019. It will be a celebrated addition to the Dudley campus and hiking program for climbers of all skill levels. It will support recreational climbing during Dudley choice time and will provide a key new component for climbing majors, a fitting tribute to Charlie’s indelible spirit and passion.
A gathering of family and friends is being planned at Camp Dudley in Westport NY during the summer of 2019. All contributions made to Camp Dudley, 126 Dudley Road, Westport NY 12993 in Charlie’s memory will be directed to the Charlie Gillis Climbing Tower. We thank you for celebrating Charlie’s life with us. To contribute online via credit card, please click here.