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.
— Ty and Lauren
(Ty: 312.545.4231, firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauren: 248.943.3143, email@example.com)
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.
OUR NEW DIRECTORS
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: Ty@kawaga.com.
Bobby, Michael, Marc, David and Ryan
Burt Chaikin is a long time camper and counselor. Burt’s passion and love for camp is incredible. His dedication to camp and the Kawaga way is appreciated by camper and staff alike. A true Brave through and through. At our Saturday services Burt shared his thoughts and feeling about the meaning of camp, paying it forward and carrying on tradition with our campers and staff. We are so lucky he did, this is a read you don’t want to miss. This is Kawaga, enjoy!
For those of you that think I like to talk a lot, this might come as a surprise to you… but I really really did not want to give this sermon. Seriously, I tried very hard to get someone else to do it instead. I did not want to give it. I really really did not want to write my counselor message the other day. And I really really really do not want to leave this place next weekend. Basically I’m just trying to avoid doing anything that would force me to start facing the reality that after 13 summers, I may be entering my final, final week of camp. My last Saturday service, my last league games, last blue-gold cup, last banquet night, last all-nighter, last time searching every other cabin for my not-washed laundry that was dispersed to everyone else, last open areas driving boats, final tapping ceremony, final bugle calls, final staff show, final cheers in the mess hall, last small and big powwows, and my final days with my kids that I’ve watched grow up since they were 9 years old.
I don’t really know how to contemplate all of this or how I could possibly put it into words. There aren’t words to describe that feelings that are starting to sink in. I don’t know my summers without Kawaga or my winters without having Kawaga to look forward to. While I have no idea what the future brings, I do know that there is no place in the world that could have prepared me more for it.
Every year, I grew, learned, loved, worked, and laughed more than I had the summer before and am a much better person because of it. My childhood lives and breathes in these woods. 13 years is a very long time… at any other place but here. Here, it’s way too short.
If I could do this job for the rest of my life, I would. I feel like people search their whole lives to find something that means as much to them as Kawaga means to me. I’m very fortunate to have learned what it means to be passionate about something and to know what it feels like to care about something this deeply.
When I spoke during the parents weekend sermon a few years ago, I had to keep re-iterating how tough it was for me to put my thoughts on Kawaga into words. As I’ve gotten older and have had to start to explain to more and more people why I’m not in LA during the summer interning, or why I’m back at a place after some of my best friends no longer are, or why I feel no need to respond to any outside world commitments while I’m up here, it’s forced me to start to consider why this place is so difficult for others to understand. And the answer is because camp is not just a place, it’s an energy, a feeling.
In that last sermon, I explained the meaning of a Native American word: “svota.” And what svota means is “when the invisible becomes visible.” So for example someone may ask, “What’s beautiful?” And then you see a sunset like the ones we have here and you say, “Oh, that’s beautiful…” These moments of Svota are probably the best I can do in order to describe camp to somebody who’s never experienced it. The only way I was able to express what Kawaga is was to people who had never been here was to describe distinct moments:
The rush a chip gets when their name is announced in the mess hall for getting their miracle, that’s Kawaga. A camper memorizing the ideal for the first time—that’s Kawaga. That same camper finally understanding it’s meaning, that’s Kawaga. The opportunity to talk to your best friend while they are sitting in a bathroom stall next to you, that’s Kawaga. Going to free swim with someone you just lost to in an 88-0 league game; doing the fork in the garbage disposal at the top of your lungs; and going nuts for chip burgers—all uniquely Kawaga. The sound of reveille is Kawaga and the feeling you get looking up at the stars each night here is Kawaga too.
The reason I bring this up is because when you get towards your final years on staff and start to think about your experiences here at camp, the way you will remember camp is also simply by these moments of svota. These little fleeting feelings are all that remain with you of camp.
As I said 2 years ago, Kawaga is a magical place. It’s where dreams are born and goals are achieved. It’s where history is constantly being written and where the stars shine brighter than ever. It’s where the word “can’t” simply isn’t an option, where treasure hunts last all night, and where miracles happen every day. Kawaga’s where pirates come to life, where Chips are bananas, and where a feather represents a thousand memories. It’s where everyone is a kid again. Most importantly though, and this is why camp is more important than ever, Kawaga’s where even the shortest of moments become sacred again. When you hug your best friend after a hard-fought cups tennis match, it matters because that’s a moment that teaches you what camp is really about. When the powwow music plays and everyone goes silent and starts walking in one direction with headbands and feathers on, it matters because it’s a Kawaga moment.
It matters when a counselor wakes you up and gives you food because for some reason Domino’s tastes a thousand times better at camp. When you get to recite your sachem name at a powwow, it matters because you’re the only one that will ever do that and a name given to you when you were 9 still fits you as a 21 year old. It matters when I see Gordon Olim teaching Cole Olim the ideal for the first time because I had Gordon as a camper and saw him learn it for the first time and only 2 years later, he’s already part of the tradition of passing it on even as a 12 year old. It matters when everyone gets excited for Jailbreak because it means we are all excited together, and it matters when we make fun of Jay for being short and he smiles about it because that means a chip who isn’t so tall might be able to be secure enough to do the same when he’s on staff and then one of his campers will 10 years after that. Cheering matters and so does calling the bathrooms Egypt, going silent during flag matters and so does Rocky IV club. Calling the Omni the Omni matters, watching sunsets and breakfast club too. Saying grace and not shooting another basket at the 15, polar bears and the dirt you get in your sandals on the way back; odds are, Seiferts mess-ups, Saturday services, juice mustaches, ski staff names, inspection, Tolf championships, Mohawk Madness, noodle hockey—it all matters. It all matters because Kawaga matters to us and if those things matter to us, Kawaga will continue to matter to others. Take care of the memories you love so that we can keep passing on the spirit of Kawaga.
It’s important to recognize this because these little moments are what make camp what it is… But they don’t just happen. The spirit of this place continues on because campers and staff alike find what they love about camp and make sure to continue it on. This place is like no other in the world because since 1915, Braves have come and gone, but most with the understanding that what they are leaving behind is much bigger than themselves. My counselors and elder campers who learned it from their counselors taught us and we now are trying to teach all of you.
The goal is to leave this place better than we found it. I read a quote once that said, “real education educates us out of self into something far finer—into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.” So I guess that means I have Kawaga to thank for giving me the most real education I could ever receive.
A lot of people said to me that I better not be using this sermon to say goodbye. The truth is I could never do that, because I’ll never say goodbye to this place. It’ll always be with me no matter where I am. So, braves, in this final week, I want to give you all a goal: I want you to find something that you personally love about camp. Find one of those moments of Svota. And then as you continue to come back to camp, make sure that you spread the love of those moments to others. Find what matters to you here, figure out why, and make sure it keeps mattering to others.
I talk to my campers about a phrase that I love: “From The Feet Up.” It means to live camp with every step. Finding these sacred moments is just that, living camp with every step. Hold Kawaga sacred and keep it close to your hearts, because life will pull you in a lot of different directions, but these moments of Kawaga will always bring you right back home.
Hi Guys, for those of you who don’t know me I’m Jack Rickels and I am from England. Now, England is a long way from here, so I thought I would tell you all why I chose to travel to Kawaga, and why this place has become so special to me.
When I first found out that Kawaga was interested in me, naturally the first thing I did was go to the website and check it out. The huge variety of sports and beautiful scenery got me interested, but what really hooked me to taking the leap over the pond was the fact that pretty much all of the staff had come back for their 8th, 9th, 10th summers, which in my head made me curious as to find out why they keep coming back. So one boring, long flight later with surprisingly really good plane food-great waffles- I arrived at camp. I remember waking up for the first time at camp, and coming out of the cabin and looking down at the camp from above the tennis courts. I was just thinking “Wow” it looked incredible (D1 had more grass) I saw the eagle flying over the waterfront and I couldn’t wait to jump in the lake and try out the jungle joe. But what really made my first week of camp so good was definitely the people I met. Every staff member was so welcoming and helpful and they made me feel like I had been their friend for years.
And then, all you campers started to arrive, and that’s when the job became even better than before. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a job where I look forward to waking up early in the morning and starting, and that’s all because of you guys. On a day to day basis, you make me laugh, smile, tired, proud, shout, and always happy. The enthusiasm and energy you guys put into everything that we do here and your helpful nature is something I’ve never seen before and I love it!
Pete Zollo said something in the Mess Hall the other day that really stuck with me. He was talking about when he was visiting camp without all you campers here. He said “Camp is beautiful, but it’s not the same with out the people” You people in this room are the main reason why this is by far the best job I’ve ever had. I now know why you all come back year on year- because at Camp Kawaga, you make friends for life. Friends that help you out without a second thought. Friends that you look up to as role models. So, if I can give you one piece of advice it would definitely be to cherish your time left here at camp. Even if you are feeling kind of tired or just in a bad mood, try getting out there and hanging out with your mates-because before you know it, you’ll be sitting in school in an uncomfortable chair wondering when you’ll next water ski, or which Wellek is better Ben or Jon? (Jon in my opinion, but hey) So a big thank you for everyone here right now, for an amazing summer so far and let’s keep it going and what have you!
Here is today’s “sermon” by Jack Leshem
Shabbat shalom. The year is 2007, and I am at camp for the first
session. I am greeted by the staff, but confused like most first year
campers. I knew a bit about swimming the bay, and about the
pow-wows, but nothing much else. Thankfully the staff was here to
guide me in the right direction.
Now, jump a year ahead and it is the summer of 2008. I come to
camp, and I am again greeted by the staff. This year I know more
about how camp works, but I still relied on the staff to be able to
answer my questions, such as which court is the stadium court, and
how to sign out at the buddy board. Surprisingly, during this time, I
was learning more about the 5 pillars of Kawaga, and Kawaga’s ideal.
As I continued through my 7 years as a camper, I never fully
understood how camp would be able to shape its campers to live by
the 5 pillars. We always said please and thank you in the mess hall,
and we always made our beds during inspection, but I did not
understand the specifics of how camp would teach its braves.
Every day at leagues, we play as hard as we can, like our
coaches tell us to. Then, we cheer at the end. When we get back the
the cabin, our counselors tell us to leave the games on the field. This
is the pillar of sportsmanship, and how the camp embodies it.
During meals, we will often cheer in the mess hall. We are loud,
and all sing together. We have fun and cheer for camp. Lead by the
campers, camp’s volume levels are at the peak during meals. This
display is the root of camp’s teachings of spirit.
At camp kawaga, we are all friends with each other. Also, we all
work together to achieve the larger task at hand. On camping trips,
age groups often work together to set up camp and collect firewood.
Because of this, the trip is then enjoyed, and a great time is had by all.
Through simple examples like this, Fellowship is easily found all
Every activity at camp is fun. Everything is run with high levels
of intensity and perfect execution. When an activity is announced,
such as an EP, it is immediately followed by cheering. This level of
enthusiasm is at camp 24/7, and is the reason the campers learn how
to live by the pillar of enthusiasm.
The pillar of leadership is made up of the other 4. For a leader to
be able to succeed, he/she needs to bring energy to whatever they are
doing. Also, that leader needs to respect what everyone else is doing.
A leader lives by the 4 other pillars. A leader is a brave who
constantly displays sportsmanship, fellowship, spirit, and enthusiasm.
At Camp Kawaga, every camper learns to live by the 5 pillars. We
come as younger campers not knowing the magnitude of what we
learn at camp. We leave our CIT summers as men who know how to
be the best people they can be. Thank you, camp Kawaga, for turning
me into the man I am today, a man who displays the 5 pillars of
Kawaga every day in everything I do.
Every Saturday our campers and staff meet in the Rec Hall to sing camp songs, listen to our C.I.T.’s recite the Kawaga Ideal and other Kawaga poems and to reflect on our time at camp. On of the highlights is the “sermons” one of our counselors write. Below please read Nick K’s sermon from this week and Jeremy B’s sermon from the first week of camp. Thank you to our staff members for sharing their thoughts. We hope you enjoy!
Nick K. Sermon 7/11/2015
A pearl set in emeralds. A phrase ancient poets used to describe a majestic fortress in Granada, Spain called the Alhambra. From a scenic peak across a valley of trees Ben B, Aaron R and I marveled at its beauty. We were amazed by its 10 centuries of history. Baffled by what it had been through, and how it remains upright and sturdy.
We had been exposed to pure beauty. Ages of blood sweat and tears leaving behind a historic and almost unparalleled sight to see as we sat on that peak in a bubble of amazement we lost track of time. We wondered what it had looked like hundreds of years before, we wondered who lived there, what their lives were like, if they were even aware of the beautiful setting they lived in. As we peered out at the enormity of the Alhambra our conversation naturally transitioned into camp talk. Nobody had realized that we deflected from chatting about a fortress with 10 centuries under its belt to Camp Kawaga. It was just fitting.
I’m not surprised that this world renown fortress sparked feelings of nostalgia toward Camp Kawaga. After all, what we have here is a “pearl set in emeralds.” An absolute beauty of a camp surrounded by gorgeous green trees. Where history and tradition have lived on and been documented for over 100 years now.
What we have here is a camp that is generous. A camp that gives you burgers on Monday. Pow wows every Sunday. And the best of friends. Friends you just might travel the world with.
In my eyes Camp Kawaga has it figured out. It’s a peninsula of competition. Of character. Of ongoing maturity. Where we come to first and foremost have a killer summer, but wind up, in tandem, marching forward towards the better version of ourselves.
This is why after 2 summers away I find myself nervously spitting out words to you all on a Saturday morning in the Rec Hall. Because Kawaga can somehow combine the goofiness of chip burger cheers with the sincerity of investing in the growth of its campers and staff.
So look around at the oddballs you’ve become best friends with. So what if one of them feels more comfortable in a tractor than a car? So what if one of them lives in the shadow of a car dealership?
I’m lucky to have guys like these in my life, fortunate to have an 11th go at camp Kawaga. And thrilled to have realized that this camp is just as cool if not cooler than a 1000 year old fortress in the woods of Spain.
Nothing about camp Kawaga is ordinary. It’s a pearl set in emeralds.
This month our “Camper of the Month” comes from a long line of Kawaga Braves. Quinn K. will be a 4th year Kawaga Brave, and this summer he may be our furthest traveling camper!! He and his family are spending the year living in Paris, France! How Fun is that!?! Read on to find out more about Quinn K.