Author: Camp Kawaga

Director’s Message

Directors Message


Hello Kawaga Nation!

What an honor to be addressing you in our new role.  Lauren and I are thrilled to be the Directors of Camp Kawaga. We want to take this opportunity to introduce ourselves and share a little of who we are. (Check out this intro video, so you can meet Shay and Vaughn, too!)

First, we want you to know how deeply we care about creating great memories for your son. And, although fun will always be front and center, our primary responsibility as directors is to ensure that each camper is safe and looked after both on and off the courts, while we teach and reinforce Kawaga’s guiding values. Every staff member will clearly understand this as our top priority.

My Kawaga story began in 1994, when my sister was a ski instructor at camp. After spending only a few hours at Kawaga, she knew how I would thrive there. She phoned to encourage me to spend the second four weeks up at camp when I was 13, which turned out to be a life-changing decision for me. My four summers as a camper were some of the most exciting, happy, and most importantly, confidence-building years of my life. Kawaga broke me out of my shell and taught me countless life lessons. I spent eight years as a counselor. In that role, I realized my love for teaching and coaching, whether on the ski dock, ballfield, or Mess Hall. Every day I watched campers face their fears and try new things, which was incredibly moving and inspiring to me.

Kawaga is my second home. It’s where I was given the opportunity to fail and then to get right back up and try again. Although my Kawaga beginnings may be unique, it’s what I share in common with Kawaga campers through the years that’s really important. It’s about the place and the people, the fun and the memories, the shared values and the incredible friendships. I’m humbled by my new role and am dedicated to assuring that future generations of Kawaga campers will experience and learn from our heritage and culture of enthusiasm spirit, sportsmanship, fellowship, and leadership.    

Lauren’s history at Kawaga is just beginning. She will be coming to the Shores with a deep appreciation for Kawaga’s traditions and ideals from the countless stories I have shared with her over the years. Lauren’s passion for teaching and guiding children drives her everyday. As an accomplished educator, she is dedicated to her students’ growth and success, just as she will be dedicated to your sons. Lauren is friendly, warm, and nurturing. I know she’ll bring a great energy to camp. As I watch her with our two young children, she impresses me every day. She is incredibly patient and compassionate. And, I am so grateful to now have the opportunity to get to work with Lauren to ensure that all of our campers and counselors will have the best summer of their lives.

We want to thank the Fisher and Daube families for this amazing opportunity, their support, and friendship. We’re looking forward to many years on the shores with all of you and the entire Kawaga family.

Lauren and I are excited to get to know you and your sons. We will be in touch with all of you over the next few weeks. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Be Kawaga!

— Ty and Lauren

(Ty: 312.545.4231, Lauren: 248.943.3143,

Leadership Change at Camp Kawaga

Leadership Change at Camp Kawaga


Dear Kawaga Families,

As Kawaga’s owners, we’ve always been humbled by our stewardship of camp. The four of us who are Fisher brothers have owned camp for 31 years and now have been associated with camp for 50 years, fully half of Kawaga’s long history. Our new partner, Ryan Daube, is the son and father of Kawaga braves, having spent nine years himself on the Shores as a camper and counselor.

Over these past many years, we’ve faced challenges and have enjoyed successes. When it comes to making decisions about the future of camp, our “guiding star” has always been to do what’s best for Camp Kawaga.

As you know, we’re in the midst of an ongoing process of revitalizing Kawaga—its grounds, facilities, programming, and staffing. And, as we look ahead not only to the summer of 2017 but beyond, we’ve decided the time is also right to make a change in leadership.

We will be always grateful to Matt and Dewey Abrams for all that they’ve given to and accomplished at camp as our Directors. For the past nine years, they’ve put their heart and soul into Kawaga. Our campers, families, and staff have benefitted from their dedication and hard work.

As stewards of camp, we’re entrusted with Kawaga’s amazing legacy. But, even more so, we appreciate the tremendous responsibility of being entrusted with your sons each summer. We believe Kawaga can be even greater—that camp can be further elevated to even better serve our families, by giving our boys the most incredible summers of their lives, while continuing to teach lessons and instill values that last a lifetime.


We are beyond excited to welcome our new directors: Kawaga’s own Ty Simpson, and his wife, Lauren.

If there’s ever been anyone who’s meant to be the director of Camp Kawaga, it’s Ty. He embodies what it means to “Be Kawaga.” Ty first came to camp in 1994; he soon realized he found his second home and his second family. Kawaga soon realized we had found a favorite son. Saying that Ty “excelled” at camp is an understatement.

Ty is one of only three campers ever to be twice awarded Kawaga’s most prestigious honor trophy: Best All-Around Camper. He was a leader of our staff for eight years. Ty has continued to return to the Shores every summer, bringing his special sense of enthusiasm, fellowship, and spirit.

Ty received his degree from Arizona State University in interdisciplinary studies. He has had a highly successful business career. So, in addition to all of his intangible qualities, Ty brings superb communication, project-management, and relationship skills to his new full-time position as Director of Camp Kawaga.

Becoming Kawaga’s director is Ty’s dream job. And, it’s now a dream realized, not only for Ty, but also for the entire Kawaga family.

Lauren, who’s originally from suburban Detroit, is in her 11th year of teaching math, the last eight at Highland Park High School (Lauren and Ty also reside in Highland Park, Illinois). Lauren’s career has entirely focused on kids and education; she holds a Masters degree in Teaching Leadership from the University of Illinois.

Appropriately, it was a Kawaga brave who introduced Lauren and Ty. Lauren was on the Shores during the especially poignant 100th anniversary ceremony. Being at Kawaga during this moment, with Ty serving as the “Special Runner” at the historic pow-wow, made all the pieces come together for Lauren. She couldn’t be more excited that Kawaga will now also become a central part of her life. And we couldn’t be more excited about how much Lauren will offer camp.

Ty and Lauren have two children: Shay, who’s two-and-a-half, and six-month-old Vaughn, who someday (Ty says in just eight years!) will be Little Raging Falcon. Their 10-year-old Golden Retriever, Karma, will be returning to our camp family this summer. She’s determined to swim the bay!


Kawaga parents: Ty and Lauren will be directly reaching out to all of you soon. They’re hoping to meet as many of you as possible before camp. Until then, please view this “Ty and Lauren intro video.”

Campers: Get excited. We know you’ll love Ty and Lauren and the energy they’ll bring to camp. The summer of 2017 will be beyond special.

Alumni: You know Ty and what he’ll bring. You know he’s extraordinary. Please join Ty, Lauren, and all of us on the Shores for Alumni Weekend June 8-11. Let’s break in the new Mess Hall together!

Thank you all for your continued support, as Kawaga opens a new, exciting chapter.

If you have any questions at all, please contact Ty:


Bobby, Michael, Marc, David and Ryan

November Thrills before Winter cold; Chicago reunion date (unofficial); Some advice from a parenting expert – Dr. Chris Thurber

Hi all, wanted to check in as the calendar turns to November and we begin to creep into the holidays. Below is some camp info as well as a link to a great webinar hosted by Dr. Chris Thurber, an expert in parenting and children who we meet with during pre-camp training to help train Kawaga’s staff. Dr. Thurber is hosting a free online 30 min seminar called “Cracking Kids Secret Code” on November 15th and I am providing the link below so you can participate. I think you will find it very informative and helpful.

It has been a great couple of months since camp ended, particularly for Chicago and Cleveland fans. I have been mesmerized by the Cubs playoff run. Watching every pitch of every 4 hour game and loving every minute of the suspense and fun with Tyler and Dewey by my side (although both are asleep around the 7th inning). It has been a fun run!!  More to come in November as the World Series wraps up.

  • On the camp front, we had a strong start to enrollment with nearly 175 campers signing up. We look forward to getting the rest of our returnees enrolled as recruiting season continues. On the recruiting front, please get us in touch with any potential new families.
  • Dewey and I will be at Daniel Wright School in Lincolnshire on November 6th for the Camp Fair hosted there. Please drop by to say hello, and send along any potential families to meet us.
  • Up at camp, construction of the new Mess Hall continues – I will post some more pictures at the end of the week.  We remain on schedule.
  • We are finalizing the Chicago Reunion with details to follow, but looking like January 14, 2017 from 12 to 2pm at Pinstripes. Put it on your calendar NOW…

Finally, one plug – I am participating in my 3rd fundraiser for Movember (men’s health charity) – going with the goatee this year as the mustache can get a little scary looking (particularly during recruiting visits). If you are willing, please donate to a healthy cause at 


It is a live webinar to watch and participate and is one of Dr. Thurber’s most popular talks. He is great and our staff really enjoys learning from him, so I hope you enjoy the information he shares.

We will continue to stay in touch, and update you on any camp ongoings, including the upcoming Reunion schedule. Have a great week!!

Banquet Night & Tribute to Fred Geraci

Last night during Banquet Night, we all said goodbye. It was an amazing night for us all.  So sad to say goodbye (why is camp only a few weeks??), but it was pretty awesome celebrating all of the campers many accomplishments this summer, and honoring our 9 campers with the Honor Trophies.

Also, last night we paid a final tribute to Fred Geraci who is retiring after this summer. The 2016 Annual Pineneedle was dedicated to him, and I have attached the Dedication here for you to all read. 2016 PINENEEDLE DEDICATION.

Our great Alumni made a sincere video tribute to Fred which I have to share with you all. We love you Fred and will miss you next summer (and always).

Kawaga – That’s Camp!!

As always, camp is just flying by. The boys are having a great time here. As I said to a group of moms yesterday during a tour of Camp Kawaga, we are simply a HAPPY CAMP right now. 180 boys (after a dozen went home from Rookie Camp yesterday) that are being led by a group of counselors who GET IT and a bunch of young camping men that are here to have fun, make friends and play every day. It has been a pleasure for Dewey and I as Directors this summer, and in particular during a fabulous second session.

This was never more evident than a hysterical camp moment that happened the other day during lunch. As some of you may know, we started a bit of stir in the Mess Hall last summer when we introduced 2 new elements to our Mess Hall. Literally on opposite sides of the dining area, we added a large commercial toaster and a wooden rack for sauces (aptly name Sauce Rack). And of course, in true camp fashion, you have to like one more than the other.  Well the other day, the Sauce Rack v. Toaster debate toasterwent to a whole new level as I watched the entire camp, EVERY member of staff included, rise up on two sides of the Mess Hall cheering for either Sauce Rack or Toaster at the top of their lungs. New cheers were created, funny ones at that, and there was no in between. You either are for us or against us, you either love the Sauce Rack with its choices of BBQ sauces, hot sauce and other condiments, or you simply appreciate warm toast and a bagel more than anything else in camp at that moment!!

hot-sauce-display-racksThe cheers were hysterical and full throated. And all of it had no meaning, it was just CAMP.  Pure, unadulterated fun, 100% participation, and not a care in the world that it was silly or who was cheering for which side. Just smiles, laughter and fun as I sat there and shook my head with goose bumps running up my arms because I knew this was one of those moments I would remember, yet could not explain to anyone who was not there to see it. If you have never been to camp, it is truly inexplicable how these things happen or why, or just how much fun CAMP really is
for your children. Yet it does happen – ALL THE TIME. In big ways and in small.

For me, I just appreciate that our boys have come together this summer in such a big way, and that they could have so much fun together in a moment of madness and joy.

And the debate will continue – Sauce Rack or Toaster – which team are you on???

I have not lived in vain — thoughts from a 3rd Generation Kawaga Father

As most of you know, Kawaga is very proud of its traditions and heritage. One of our strongest traditions, something that makes us probably the most proud, is the love and continuing traditions of our multi-generational families. Recently, we received an email from one of our fathers whose son, Jonah, is joining us at camp for the first time this summer during 2nd session. Ian’s feelings and thoughts really hit home with Dewey and I, and we wanted to share it with our camp family. Here, unedited, is the email we received that we wanted to share:

I am a third generation Kawaga brave. My Uncle, Chuck Rubovits, was a camper at Kawaga for the first time in either the summer of 1915 or 1916. All manner of Rubovits, Brasch and Alexander men spent their formative summers on the shores of Lake Kawaguesaga. Yesterday, I dropped my son off at the bus for the beginning of what I hope is his first of many summers on the shores. Kawaga means a lot to me. I met my best friend (to this day) when we were ten year old campers at Kawaga. To say that I am beyond thrilled that my son is carrying on a family tradition is the understatement of my life.

11232710_10207492767341437_8755402029736378451_nJonah never had a choice about where he would spend this summer. When he was hours old I read the Kawaga Ideal to him in his crib. He has always known that he would go to Kawaga because for me there was no other option. I am lucky that my wife has indulged me in what I consider an essential part of his childhood. I only hope that he is able to experience the joy and learn the lessons that I experienced as a camper at Kawaga. Thank you for your part in raising him so that his wishbone will not be where his backbone should be.

I had no idea how much his departure yesterday would affect me. As a former camper, I have some understanding of what life at Camp Kawaga is like. Together we watched videos online, went to father son camp and met with you during the off season. We did all of these things so that he would know what to expect when he was finally ready to become a camper. What I didn’t know or realize is how much his first summer at camp would affect me. When Jonah was four months old I had a near death experience. Thankfully, I am fine now. At that time, I prayed that I would live to see Jonah through certain milestones in his life. The first of which was becoming a Kawaga brave. Yesterday we met the milestone. I am so excited that he is up at camp and learning things about himself that I believe are essential to his development as a person. The “I have not lived my life in vain” part of the Ideal is becoming a reality. It is hard to express the emotions that I felt yesterday and continue to feel now.

For me, Kawaga is a part of my DNA. Learning to laugh at myself was one of the best lessons that I learned at camp. I am positive that Jonah is going to take great lessons away from this summer all of which will help make him into the kind of person that I know he will one day become. I am excited to see pictures of him, read letters and hear the stories of what life at camp is like for him. Thanks again for your part in building my son.

Week 1 is a Wrap – check out our Week 1 Highlight Video

And like that, Week 1 is a wrap. Camp always moves at a blur and with the awesome weather this week, Week 1 of #CK2016 was no exception. A great week for everyone, even the few boys with some homesickness 🙂 Our first 2 trips were a success, and the CITs left this morning for their week in the Boundary Waters. Week 2 of clubs and the remainder of Trip Week on tap for Week 2

Overall, an amazing start to summer. New campers, new staffers all doing a great job and having fun!!

Some of our great staffers have put together our first highlight video for Week 1. Since we get a whole lot of pictures during the day, the highlight video shows a lot of our Evening Programs.



And we’re OFF!! Loving the start to camp!!

First two full days behind us and camp is off to a truly phenomenal start. The great weather of 70s and sunny every day has completely helped for sure, but it is also the great energy of the campers and staff together. The First Session Staff Show just ended and the Staff did a great job “introducing” themselves to all the campers with some intro video clips and funny skits. A great time had by all!!  Campers have been flying around the first couple of days. The CITS are leading the way in the Mess Hall, Senior Ball is looking great, new campers were taught a bunch of our songs and cheers today, and on and on we go. The homesickness has been minimal but of course we work with each camper and help him get settled into camp.

As I have walked around camp and jumped into activities myself, I am really excited by the great and hard work of our staff. They are really making a tremendous effort to get to know every camper and see them for the individuals they are. Our Admin team spent a lot of time this offseason preparing for pre-camp knowing we would have a lot more new members of the staff than usual. We spent a great amount of time training up the staff and helping them come together as a group. They worked really hard, and the early returns indicate that all of the Admin’s preparation and the staff’s hard work getting ready has really paid dividends.

With more good weather on the way, we will continue to keep the boys busy with Clubs, Swims, Leagues and fun. Dewey and I are very excited for the way things have started here.

More to come…

To Camp Alone article – benefits of camp experience/activities on your own

Below is a nice little article promoting something we do at Camp Kawaga as well. As you know, our cabin size and age group breakdown is a bit unique. One of my biggest things in putting together the cabins, something that takes up a lot of time for myself and the Administration, is diversity for the boys. It is great to have a friend at camp, or even a group of friends. But living together in a big group of friends/schoolmates is not a requirement, and is actually something that I believe slows a camper’s growth and independence. Our boys see each other every day, eat meals together, live altogether. Making new friends, meeting new people, it is what camp is really all about. See what you think…

To Camp Alone

May 16, 2016
Written by Rob and Bob Wipfler
To Camp Alone image

Being “Home Alone” did not always work out so well for Macaulay Caulkin.  He should have gone to camp alone, instead.

Many parents and children are under the false impression that camps are places for hometown friends to re-gather for summer vacation. They demand to be placed in bunks together and often choose nearly identical camp schedules. Consequently, their time at camp is considerably cloistered, which significantly reduces the best by-product of the experience — an opportunity to make new and enduring friendships.

A good example is witnessed when several children attend camp together and present themselves as co-joined at the hip. This association offers protection and cover, of sort, to that membership. This crowd is collectively “self-conscious,” often presenting themselves as a singular entity. Very simply, they succeed or fail as a group. A new camper in this situation, when choosing activities, is at the mercy of the whim and whimsy of the group (or the groups dominant personality) and is much less likely to get to do the activities which he or she actually wants to do, or the ones that will offer the most benefit to the individual camper.

Many parents vigorously defend this grouping arrangement as it affords their child an insurance plan against the most feared camp outcome — exclusion. But, as the saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” While those first few hours at camp may be a bit easier, the camper is nonetheless deprived of many of the prime growth opportunities of the camp experience: making new friends on his or her own, being “discovered” by others, and forging fresh identity. The camper who jumps into the camp experience independently will do so “with two feet” and will have a better experience because of it. Parents and children should work to get past this understandable emotion and trust the camp to do what it does best; absorb all campers into the full community culture.

Camp leaders know that a gang of two or three newcomers wearing the same school shirt is less likely to be immediately hailed into an activity than a lonesome soul who politely approaches the crowd. We offer this advice to those who have come to camp with buddies from home:

Just go to an activity by yourself and ask to be included.

Camp cultures are universally accepting and this suggestion will work anywhere. The new camper is not only invited, but completely welcomed.

Now that the child branched out on her own, she is the sole beneficiary of that rush of excitement that comes with such a success.  Perhaps it is a game and her team gets clobbered.  No matter, she shares a camp experience with other children and, early in the summer, that is a hundred times better than winning the game with pals from home.

Our recommendation to those who wish to come to camp with friends is that all of them — along with their parents — acknowledge that seeking and cementing new friendships is the prime value of camp.  Good camps have protocol in place to see that this happens. The directors break up groups into different bunks.  When a couple of kids end up in the same cabin nonetheless, (our camp allows requests) the cabin counselors arrange the bed assignments to keep them well apart.  Many camps assign children to tables in random fashion, thus assuring rich age and interest variety in the dining room.

Moreover, the program directors put on their thinking caps every day to offer several alluring options to specific age groups during the same timeframe, which tends to alleviate the hometown effect quite well. Lastly, the directors themselves have eyes out for budding cliques.  The authors of this blog take personal pleasure in promoting new friendships whenever we see the opportunity, especially early in the session when kids are still a bit nervous about their prospects.

Of course, camp counselors are always on the lookout for all first-year participants and know it is their job to bring them together in a friendly, welcoming fashion.  At every camp, the day is filled with informal encounters such as an invitation to play cards or ping pong, join an impromptu game, or just plain hang out. It might be counter-intuitive, but campers who go to camp alone (or if they come with friends, are open to experiencing camp independently and go to activities alone) are more likely to have their “radar” up and open to the often subtle signals of these opportunities to join the fun and make new friends. These are the moments when not being with buddies from home can give any child a real leg up in his quest for making new friends.

Bob and Rob Wipfler are father/son co-directors of ACA-accredited Kingswood Camp for Boys in Piermont, NH. Together they have over 101 years of experience at residential summer camps. They have co-written a blog series for ACA, “Camp 101,” since 2014. 

Photo courtesy of Kingswood Camp for Boys, Piermont, NH 

Sending your Child to Camp for all the RIGHT REASONS

Hi all… with camp closing in, we will be posting more and more regularly. Please check in every few days. We will begin our regular blogging schedule in about 1 month once we are all at camp.

There was an article recently published in the Washington Post making its way around Facebook and social media that I hope all parents will read, if you have not already. I have attached the link here (and below) and also emailed the pdf version to all of our Camp Kawaga families today.  The article succinctly and positively addresses some of the very real modern day benefits of camp. I encourage you to read the article and share it with your friends, particularly the ones that look at you cockeyed when you explain where your son is heading this summer.  boys having fun

Dewey and I are firm believers that overnight camp prepares your son (or daughter) for life. It does just get them into college, it prepares the for life in college and every day thereafter. Put another way, Camp Kawaga, and overnight camps like it, provides the crucial life experience and training that school can no longer provide.  We know there are many different options that can pull your son away from camp each summer, but we hope you acknowledge

Please read the full article “I send my kids to sleep-away camp to them a competitive advantage in life” here, and feel free to comment.