Category: Alumni News

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.



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.

New Camper Orientation Video

Last week we hosted the New Camper Orientation. Many of you who could not attend asked us if we could record the gathering and WE DID. I believe you can hear everything sufficiently, even though you cannot see all of the visuals particularly well. If you have problems listening in, we also have just the audio that we can share with you as a type of podcast.

The information in here will let you in all the important information for you and your son as you prepare for your first summer at Camp Kawaga.

The Gift that keeps on Giving

Want to know a gift that keeps on giving? Camp!


11800609_10153349875560219_1752664790332089233_nBelow is a great article from the American Camping Association, which I thought you’d find interesting and appropriate. It explains the many important “gifts” your child receives from camp.

The author, Peg Smith,  writes: “We often think if it looks like fun, it must be unimportant, but ‘fun’ is a young person’s ‘work’ — to learn, to grow, to be productive, creative, and happy. If they don’t do that work, they won’t turn into healthy adults.”

I think this is spot-on! The world, now more then ever, is full of “stressors” for our children. Their school workloads are far more rigorous than when we were children. Sports are becoming more and more demanding of their time and even more competitive. And social media has profoundly changed their world, causing anxiety along the way, as our kids try to navigate the new social order from grade school to high school.Kawaga campers

Camp is a safe place — an outlet, where fun comes first, where the biggest decision your son has to make is whether to go waterskiing first or play basketball with his friends. At camp, kids are unplugged, not checking (or even thinking about) Facebook or Instagram to compare their day to someone else’s. Life is simple and fun, and the learning that happens across the way is nurturing and affirming. Conversations are real and face to face, usually over a meal or during a game of catch or after “lights out” before peaceful sleep sets in. At Kawaga, as I watch as our boys get off the bus for that first day of camp, I literally see their bodies and minds relax. It’s like you see their shoulders go up and then down with a sigh of relief, as if they’re saying, “Aah summer!!  No more worries, no more stress.”  To me, there is no better gift you can give your child.

Camp=happy=best gift ever!11825133_10153349898745219_3494754604132498248_n

Here’s the article — enjoy!

— Dewey


The Case for Camp — Why Kids Need It Now More Than Ever

 Change is a part of life. It is often directly related to survival and can enrich one’s life in unexpected ways. Childhood is a time of profound change and development. It is exciting and disquieting at the same time. When it comes to our children, we need to be sure that change is made for the better.

We’ve been so concentrated on the brain, we forget about the rest of our bodies. This change in focus has led to an obesity rate that is unacceptable. Our kids are not as healthy as the generation before.

Families used to live in a community. We’ve lost that, keeping kids inside and losing a sense of neighborhood.

Add to that the fact that our kids stand to inherit all the economic, social, and environmental challenges we’ve created, and the legacy we have left our children and youth begins to look bleak.

So, how do we prepare our children with the skills and, more importantly, the competencies they will need to tackle changes in our world?  We should start with a positive camp experience. A quality camp experience provides our children with the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — a meaningful, engaged, and participatory environment.

Camp promotes community. It creates this great space that shows kids how to live together and care for one another. There are norms and negotiation of boundaries; there are rules. Camp is a place where kids can “practice” growing up stretching their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive muscles outside the context of their immediate family. This is what childhood is supposed to provide.

Camp teaches critical thinking. We need to remember how important it is to be actively involved in the learning process, and camp affords that. We’re going to need really strong problem solvers in the next century. We need the science, math, and biology, but without the ability to relate, connect, empathize, or inspire innovation, how will our kids be able to make a difference in the challenges now facing us?

The camp experience embraces the natural environment. While children have fewer and fewer opportunities to be outdoors, the camp experience advances the outdoor learning environment. As we become more concerned about saving the planet, we run out and make DVDs and videos about it. But the environment needs to be experienced to be appreciated. Kids need to catch tadpoles in the creek, wander among the trees, and feel the sun on their faces to understand the importance of those things. What happens to a generation that may grow up not seeing stars in the dark of the night?

Camp creates future leaders. The camp experience offers kids a close-up look at compassionate leadership through the camp director, counselors, resident nutritionist, and other camp personnel. And kids get loads of opportunities to practice being a leader themselves — song leader, lunch table leader, team captain, the list goes on and on.

Camp is an equal opportunity life changer. It addresses universal childhood needs not specific to a particular racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group. Nobody is left out. It’s all about childhood development.

Camp has a lasting impact. One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is a sense of success and achievement. Camp teaches kids how to be active participants, ask questions, ask for help, and try new things. They leave understanding that it’s okay to feel a little uncomfortable sometimes, because that’s generally what happens when you’re getting ready to learn something. The camp experience translates back in real-world experience — in an “I can” attitude.

We need to advocate for our young people. We should promote opportunities for kids — give them camp experiences that serve as an antidote for the world’s challenges. We need to recognize this is not a series of frivolous activities. We often think if it looks like fun it must be unimportant, but “fun” is a young person’s “work” — to learn, to grow, to be productive, creative, and happy. If they don’t do that work, they won’t turn into healthy adults.

Now more than ever, kids need camp. Visit to find out how you can change a life by helping make it possible for every child to have a camp experience.

Peg L. Smith is the former chief executive officer of the American Camp Association.

Let’s start the count down

Hello Camp Kawaga!!!

28 weeks until camp!! Counting the days makes it seem too far away, but counting weeks… it will be here in no time!! And we simply couldn’t be more excited!!

Big things are happening at Camp Kawaga….the new bathrooms and shower house are coming along and should be completed this month.  FUN STUFF – We are picking out tiles, faucets, sinks and more. They are going to look amazing!!

We are also working with contractors and architects on the plans for the new Mess Hall for 2017! AND we are starting to get ready for this summer – We have monthly meetings set with Harry and Jay as we start planning and filling the calendar with all your favorite activities and events. Matt is starting to send out contracts to get all your favorite staff back, and has already hired some great new international staff (g’day mate!!) we know you’ll love! Reunions are set, and camp is filling up!

So get ready, it will be here before you know it!!


To start the count down, we will be posting to our blog weekly, including great articles, tips to help you get ready for camp and more.  And we would like your help…

Returning Campers: You can write a Pineneedle article on a camp- related topic. Here are a few ideas to get you started (all Pineneedles posted to our blog will receive points toward Mawanda and Sachem):

  • Your favorite activity or evening program;
  • What you should definitely pack for camp and what to leave behind;
  • Why  you love camp;
  • Life lessons you have learned at camp;
  • First day jitters/homesickness (and how you overcame it); or
  • Interview with your favorite counselor or big brother.

Send your Pineneedle article to with a picture of yourself and a quick bio (home town, age, years at camp).

New Campers: Have any general questions or concerns about your first summer at Camp Kawaga? Send them to and we will have some of our returning campers answer them for you!

Also, if you have some news to share about how you or your fellow Braves are “Being Kawaga” during the off season, send it our way! I would love to “brag” about you:)

Hope you guys are counting down as well. 2016 is going to be AMAZING!!