History of the CYO

"God can bring peace to your past, purpose to your present and hope to your future."  - John 14:27


Where it all began

CYO Summer Camp came from the vision of Archbishop Connolly and Gordie Hamilton.  Together they envisioned a place for children to get away from it all and enjoy time in God's creation.  In the early years camp was segregated by gender and was located at Camp Don Bosco, Camp Cabrini and Camp Blanchet.  Throughout the years CYO has been been located at Camp Don Bosco, Camp Cabrini, Camp Blanchet, Camp Gallagher and Nanamakee.  While Nanamakee has no home and is a roaming camp it is a vital and important part of what we do.  Currently CYO operates Don Bosco, Hamilton and Nanamakee Camps.  Much of the vision that Gordie Hamilton instilled in our camps is still present.  We are authentically Catholic, end our days round the campfire and believe in helping the youth of today to take a breath from outside noise to come be who they are supposed to be.

Gordie Hamilton, founder and cyo camp director

Quoted from the Seattle Times Obituaries 9/4/91

"I probably expect more of a child than any man alive, but you would be surprised at how often a kid will come up to your expectations." Gordie Hamilton

Over more than six decades of working with youth as a camp counselor, Boy Scout leader, teacher and director of the Catholic Youth Organization's camping program in Western Washington, Gordy Hamilton challenged thousands of youngsters to reach beyond themselves.

"I think it was one of the best decisions I made in 44 years as a priest in hiring him," said the Rev. Richard Stohr, former CYO director and a close friend. "He had a sort of a magnetism. He was a dynamic-type person. . . . He made a tremendous impression on the lives of a lot of youths who are now adults - and on adults."

A native of Seattle, Mr. Hamilton was attracted to the outdoors as a child. He earned Eagle Scout rank as a student at St. Benedict School in the Wallingford District and won a scouting scholarship that paid his first year's tuition to the University of Washington after he graduated from Lincoln High School.

Mr. Hamilton was on the staff of the Boy Scouts' Camp Parsons from 1924 to 1930 and served as director of Camp Rotary, a former Rotary Club camp on Mercer Island. He also founded Camp Discovery, a 480-acre private boys camp at Dabob Bay on Hood Canal, which he operated summers between 1930 and 1942.

1957 Gordie was recruited to help the Archdiocese of Yakima start Camp Field.  CYO Camp field was operated from 1957 until 1982 when the site would become Camp Field Retreat and Conference Center.  Later in 1991 the property was sold to a neighbor but you can still see some of the honor signs in the main lodge.

When he retired in 1975, what had been a fledgling CYO camping program was recognized as one of the best in the nation.

Even in retirement, Mr. Hamilton was active on behalf of the CYO camping efforts.



Past + present

The songs and inspiration for everything that we do come from the rich history and community that we have.  Songs sung at the campfire 68 years ago are still shared with campers this summer and other traditions remain the same or have evolved but retain the rich history.  We hold on tight to the foundation laid by those who came before us and work hard to strengthen that foundation for future generations.  We would love to hear and share your story with the CYO and our camps.