In 1905, Charles and Florence Butt moved their family to Kerrville, Texas, because of its better climate for tubercular patients. Charles had tuberculosis. To support the family, Florence opened a small mercantile store. Her youngest son, Howard, made deliveries in his little pull wagon. On occasion, Howard would get to visit local ranches. He enjoyed those visits so much that he vowed to buy a ranch someday where kids could come visit for free. Today, the Foundation Free Camps serve thousands of kids each year, free of charge, with a camping experience on a 1,900-acre ranch. The Foundation also developed the Foundations for Laity Renewal and its programs.
Laity Lodge was one of those programs. Howard Butt, Jr., started Laity Lodge in 1961. He hired Keith Miller as the first director. After Keith, in 1966, Bill Cody was the director at Laity Lodge when he and Howard decided to start a youth camp. Bill Cody and Howard Butt, Jr., set out to find a top-notch program director to put their dream into action.
They hired Frog Sullivan. Frog said, “Keith Miller had an incredible influence on my life. He suggested that we not just talk about being relational, but do it. We emphasize this with our staff, while spending many hours talking about how to be relational and how to do it better.”
Howard Butt, Jr., has always stood by that philosophy. He has said, “We’re about relationships. First, there’s our relationship with Christ and then with each other.”
Relationships, deep and meaningful, are the hallmark of Laity Lodge Youth Camp. That’s the great connection between Howard, Bill, and Frog. They built this camp by placing importance on building relationships and caring deeply about the important issues in campers’ lives.
Bill Cody said it well when addressing the summer staff in the late ’70s: “LLYC has added many new things since we started in 1967. I see two tennis courts, a rifle range, a rodeo arena, a covered dining area, and a whole new kitchen. Although we have come a long way with our property development, that is not the secret of this camp. The quality of your life and the quality of your relationship to your camper is the greatest thing that we have going for us in this Canyon.”
Frog Sullivan said, “Bill Cody and I spent a lot of time with Howard Butt talking about how to make these camps different from other private camps. Mr. Butt and his family have always stressed excellence in the Grocery Company and the Foundation. I believe excellence in youth camping was always a goal of Howard and Bill Cody. “
A camp was born in 1954 and cultivated by Howard and Mary Butt. The legacy was passed to their son Howard E. Butt, Jr., and his wife Barbara Dan, who continued to build and nurture the camps. The mantle of responsibility now extends to their daughter, Deborah, and her husband, David Rogers. The family legacy for excellence is deeply embedded in our culture as we move into the future.
“The history of Laity Lodge Youth Camp is a history of people caring about each other. Man, if you could teach that. You have to show love and be love—that’s what LLYC is all about. It’s about showing and being.” —Frog Sullivan