Christine Kengott: A World Traveler
When Christine Kengott, known then as Chris Hempen, made her first trip to Camp Ondessonk at 11 years old, she had never been so far from home. Though her trip was only a little more than 100 miles to Camp, she felt like she was a world away from her home in New Baden, Ill. She loved the feeling of independence and getting to meet and learn from new people that first summer.
Chris was voted into Lodge during the summer after seventh grade and returned as a camper for the next two summers after becoming a Lodge member. She held the position of Regional Lodge Princess for two years beginning in 1974 and was elected Lodge Princess in 1976. Chris usually played the part of Katherine Tekawitha in Lodge ceremonies and can still recite the lines from memory 44 years later.
Becoming a Lodge member opened the world to Chris. “I remember my parents laughing at the idea that I could sell yearbook advertisements to earn a trip to the Bahamas or even Europe through the Lodge,” Chris shared, but that’s exactly what she did. Through Camp Ondessonk and Lodge, she traveled to Florida, the Bahamas, the Holy Land, Africa, Egypt, Switzerland, and Italy. While traveling in Italy, Chris and the group spent a lot of time in Rome. The group had an audience with Pope Paul VI in 1977 and Pope John Paul II in 1980. Chris was fortunate to have a conversation with Pope John Paul II during the visit and he even blessed her by kissing her forehead.
“Because of Camp Ondessonk, I met people from around the world, through all of the trips and experiences,” Chris explained “it really gave me the desire to explore the world.” After saving for 11 years, she was able to take the trip that was inspired by her time as a camper. She embarked on trip around the world by herself exploring local cultures.
“Camp is a joy-filled, happy place that prepares a person for life in so many special ways. Had no idea how it would impact my life in such a positive way,” Chris explained, and she has shared her love of Camp Ondessonk with her family. Her children attended Camp, one summer all three daughters were in the same unit, and they, too, were inducted into Lodge.