Kenny Lund can only explain that it’s been “divine intervention” how his entire family has come to embrace ownership of the Saint Edward Retreat Center and Camp Lolek in Wrightwood over the last two years.
Some 7,000 feet up in the San Gabriel Mountains, the tranquil 215-acre spot may feel as close to heaven on Earth as Lund could image. Now he and his family plan to share it with thousands of soul-searching Catholics, young and old, for years to come.
“When I first set foot on the place, I saw something wonderful about it – the Holy Spirit runs strong here,” said Lund, noting its wood-paneled prayer chapel, rosary garden and Stations of the Cross hiking trail.
For the sale of the property known as Camp Mariastella, established in the 1940s by the Sisters of Social Services, Lund came into the negotiation to assist another Catholic organization trying to buy it.
One thing led to another, and it turned out that the Lund family and a small group of Catholic investors closed escrow in late January of 2020.
Then the COVID pandemic hit. Call it another blessing in disguise. It gave Lund, wife Mary, college-aged daughters Clare, Katherine, Megan, Elizabeth and his son Joseph a unique bonding experience. For months, they learned how to make upgrades to the facilities and then jump in to become counselors and trained medical help.
“I now have two fulltime jobs — one that pays me money and one that costs me money,” laughs Lund, who is the executive vice president of Allen Lund Company, started by his late father, in La Canada-Flintridge. “We are all invested in this.”
That includes his mother, Kathie, plus all five brothers and sisters with their spouses, who have stepped in as essential donors, board members and even volunteer cooks.
“The camp was a gift to all of us and we didn’t know how impactful it would be,” says Kathie Lund, a 2011 Cardinal Award recipient. “Our whole family has bought into its potential. We knew the Sisters of Social Services wanted it to keep it going as a Catholic facility and they’ve said this is has been the answer to their prayers.”
After Allen and Kathie Lund moved their family from Utah to Southern California in the 1970s, Kenny Lund admits his time at Incarnation Parish Elementary School in Glendale tested his teachers and principal, Sister Kathleen.
“With my energy and mistaken creativity, I think I still hold the record for in-school suspensions,” says Kenny.
At St. Francis High in La Canada and Loyola Marymount University, Kenny played baseball and coached the sport at his high school alma mater while teaching business classes. He put his LMU business administration degree to use when he joined his brothers in the late ‘80s to run the truck brokerage firm started by his legendary father.
A lifetime of volunteer work has led Kenny Lund to be a school board president for his home parish of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pasadena, as well as a guild member at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, helping the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, work at Navidad en el Barrior, playing guitar at Mass at Central Juvenile Hall in L.A., and as a board member of Catholic Charities in San Gabriel.
This new project with the Saint Edward Retreat Center reinforces to Lund how “we want to try to help the church be one full of happy Catholics. Everyone working here sees the affirmation in improving their faith. And we’ve already seen some miracles.”
Such as when Fr. Mike Perucho, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Director of Vocations, brought 30 high school men for a four-day retreat in the summer of 2021, mixing discernment with fun activities.
“A change happened in all of them,” said Fr. Perucho. “Six expressed a strong openness to the priesthood. We are actively working with three who we hope to apply sometime in the future as their discernment continues. We are grateful to Kenny. His work is amazing in all he does for our youth.”
The naming of the Saint Edward Retreat Center honors Kathie Lund’s father, Army Captain Edward Baranski. A devout Catholic, Baranski leaned heavily on his prayer life as he was captured by German soldiers and eventually executed at an Austrian concentration camp in World War II.
Kenny Lund believes his grandfather Edward and father Allen have been “our prayer giants, helping from heaven.”
Now seeing her son recognized with the Cardinal Award as she once was brings joy to Kathie Lund.
“He took a real leap of faith to make this camp happen, but Kenny’s talent is leadership and prayer as well as having a funny bone and knowing how to make you laugh,” she said. “That’s his gift.”