I will never forget any part of the summer of 2017 at Kawaga. It was the best summer of my life so far. Every moment I understood more of what it means to be a Kawaga brave. I learned and reinforced to my campers to be fast to forgive and slow to condemn. Not to sweat the small stuff. To be proud, unbending, humble, and gentle. Always.
One of my most memorable experiences was a story that Raging Falcon, Ty Simpson, told at the second big powwow. This was the message: The best time is always now. The most important people are always those by your side. The most important thing to do is good to those by your side. I found that if I follow this everything else falls into place. If you have no problems with those by your side, then you have no problems. And if you do, you can quickly fix them with this wisdom.
As a staff person at Kawaga, you do more good in one day than anywhere else. Here’s a sample day for just one staff person. Wake up to a positive PA announcement. Cheer at breakfast. Help a cabin full of campers work together on cleanliness. Help campers achieve there skiing goals. Teach campers how to play 4 different instruments. Guide a yoga and meditation class. Cheer at lunch. Help campers learn the ideal. Ref or coach a leagues game. Help a camper achieve a free throw contract. Cheer at dinner. Run an evening program. Reflect on the day and summer goals with campers before bed.
The reason Kawaga braves keep coming back is to help young leaders grow into mentors. As Ty always says, the lifeblood of kawaga is the staff. It wouldn’t be possible without Ty’s leadership. His calm, confident and positive demeanor spread through the staff quickly and everyone noticed it. The future of this camp is very bright and promising. Thank you for being you Kawaga.
The energy this session has been abundant, with vibrant personalities, and lifelong bonds. With one week left and the blue gold competition underway I know it’s going to move too quickly. I find myself realizing that I’m experiencing a couple of lasts for my first summer up at camp. My last Saturday service, my last outdoor meal, my last small power, my last Sunday sleep in! What started only seven weeks ago has already become such a large part of my and my family’s life. I am beyond fortunate to be experiencing the summer with them and all of your sons.
It’s hard to imagine that there is a world outside of Kawaga bubble and that we will soon have to begin the countdown of months/weeks/days until we get to return to the shores. I plan to embrace all of these last times for my first summer in the North Woods. Watch every sunrise (my kids wake up very early!), every sunset, cheer on both teams, and share moments with the campers that will forever be part of who I am!!
Camp Kawaga is a place unlike anywhere I have ever been. It is truly a community and somewhere, which I am so glad to have found myself this year. I am from Australia where summer camp just doesn’t exist. Many people from home have come across to America and Canada during our winter months to experience the camp life. As much as I was told about Camp, nothing could have prepared me for what it is like here.
Back home I have completed university and I am a pharmacist, so I do feel that I have a little bit of world experience under my belt. Even so, I have been challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone in many ways here, especially being a girl at an all boys’ camp. I have gained confidence through leading clubs and coaching leagues teams and feel that the girls here have all been integrated really well. I have also never worked with this many children, but I am loving it. Having homesick kids around is challenging but having learned how to deal with them, I feel much more confident in these situations.
I am blown away, firstly, by the fact that kids as young as six are prepared to spend between two and eight weeks away from their family. That is something that I did not do until the age of sixteen. I can see how beneficial this time away is for a child’s development and independence, especially when it comes to these children moving away from their families when it comes time for college. I can only imagine how much more prepared I would have felt after finishing high school if I had a regular period of time away from my family growing up. At the age of twenty-three, I am likely moving across the country next year. It’s an idea that terrifies me but I am finally ready to move away from my childhood home, something that I believe most of these kids will be prepared to do at a much younger age because of their time at Camp.
Secondly, seeing the CITs from 2016, that have been attending Kawaga for years come back as Junior Counselors has really impressed me, especially considering they are yet to finish high school. The maturity and leadership skills that Kawaga gives campers allows them to transition into counselors seamlessly. This will put them in great stead for college and for future job prospects. It’s something that I would have loved to have done at their age.
Finally, I really love seeing and hearing about the true friendships that come out of Camp with kids from all across the country. I have been told that school friends are good friends but Camp friends are family. I feel very lucky to be a counselor at Camp Kawaga and will always value what it has taught me and the amazing friendships I have made.
– Emma Mactaggart
As we get close to closing out our first session, I look back at my first few weeks here at Kawaga and I am overwhelmed with excitement, pride, and honor. I have witnessed so much growth in both our campers and staff and must admit, I have learned an exceptional amount as well. Kawaga constantly teaches you life lessons, the ideal and pillars are reminders of what’s important. To me Kawaga is a protected paradise, full of happy campers and counselors, and full of safe opportunities to grow to be healthy and strong.
I’ve gotten to do many firsts as a “first time camper”. I swam the bay, have been cheering as loud as I can in the Mess Hall (working hard to learn the words!) and am getting an extra competitive edge during my first Spectacular. It’s been incredible to see camp with fresh eyes while being able to share in the history alongside Ty and the rest of the Kawaga Nation.
We count on enjoying every minute of the next few days until we close the books on the first 4 weeks of CK2017 and are gearing up to have a strong second session. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you this weekend for Visitors Weekend. Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to share the summer with your sons.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Zach Fisher, known as Little Running Bear to the Kawaga Nation. 2017 marks my thirteenth summer at Kawaga and fifth on staff. I’m here to check in with you all and provide some reflections from the shores… of The Mediterranean Sea!
I’m currently participating in the Maccabiah Games, which take place every four years in Israel. It is the third largest athletic competition in the world, bringing together thousands of athletes from dozens of countries in a plethora of sports and games. While I am competing for Team USA in swimming, am missing out on First Session back at Camp. I’m eager for the final four weeks, though, and to help lead the Waterfront and Miracle Ski programs. I’m grateful for Ty and Lauren, who have given me the opportunity to pursue this unique experience as well as make an impact at Camp as a counselor, possibly for the final time.
In addition to representing my country, I am also representing Camp Kawaga as it has been so essential to my development as an athlete, leader, and person. In fact, I would go so far as to say that without Kawaga, I would not have been able to achieve what I have in the sport of swimming. True, over the years I have missed out on over 100 weeks of traditional “training,” but instead I gained what I now recognize as invaluable: developing ambition as a sportsman to pair with empathy as a a leader and friend. I want to share some of the ways Kawaga has enabled me to thrive as an athlete at a high level.
Regarding goal-setting, Kawaga offers dimensions no summer sports league or workout regimen could match alone including those oriented as personal and group, process and result, and leadership and skill to name a few. What’s more, it provides us with tools to plan and track our progress – whether it be via Mawanda and Sachem points, weekly powwows, or contracts – a routine that only becomes more useful in realms beyond camp.
Kawaga practices what it preaches as braves truly relish the stress and spur of difficulties and challenges. In sports and in life, your son will plateau and face setbacks. But Miracle Dock’s mantra “never say ‘I can’t'” might as well be Kawaga’s because grit is second nature to all of us. If I had never been homesick in Chip 1, I may not have pushed through the culture shock of collegiate swimming during my freshman year at Penn. If I hadn’t persevered in dropping a ski – which took me eight weeks over two summers – I may not have had the drive to return for my sophomore season after not improving during the previous one. The disappointment of not making an ‘A’ team or not being elected a tribal officer allowed me to develop healthy coping skills that would prove useful when I didn’t make Penn’s conference championship team, for example.
The pure elation that comes with standing up in the storm to achieve those goals, in a stress-free environment where every camper and counselor share in each other’s successes and failures, is priceless. Crucially, embedded in Kawaga’s culture of virtue and manhood are key lessons in teamwork and leadership. For example, since it had been instilled in me to exude enthusiasm in situations like the Senior Ball ‘C’ field, it was instinctual how I ought to role model for the similarly marginalized Sprint Group at Penn Swimming. While the fabric of Kawaga Nation is sewn with sportsmanship, spirit, and enthusiasm, to me, it is held together by the bonds of fellowship. Nowhere else can you make such meaningful relationships at such an impressionable age.
At Kawaga, there is a tangible sense of community cultivated through conversations at meals, in the cabin, on the court, under the stars, and around the campfire. Whether serious or silly, they are always meaningful. Thanks to the example set by counselors, when Kawaga braves check in with each other, regardless of age, they are genuinely interested in how the other’s day is going – what they are striving for or struggling with. For my age group, the 2011 CITs, this persists throughout the offseason, even about “real world” joys and sorrows of things like school and job hunting. Away from our daily camp lives, we care about each other as if we are always together – like we are on the shores. The empathy that permeates Kawaga is a chief reason why it is so successful. As a captain for my senior year, it was important to me to try and promote friendships strong and deep among my teammates. Far from a coincidence, we finished 2nd in the Ivy League, our best performance since 1972.
True, “Being Kawaga” transcends sports and you can never take Kawaga out of the brave. But I believe that sports shouldn’t take the brave out of Kawaga if you can help it – a summer there may be unforgettable in ways you may not expect. I could go on and on about what Kawaga means to me but this mighty brave is headed into battle fare…
The first week of the 2017 camping season has come to a close and we want to begin to share with you thoughts and observations along the way. As we continue on this adventure as directors of Camp Kawaga we will share insight on what the boys are up to and a few quotes.
These blog posts will be called “Reflections from the Shores”. At times they will be brief and times they will have more detailed summaries of activities and accomplishments. We stressed to our staff at precamp, communication is vital to the success of any organization and this is just another vehicle we will use to keep you updated on the daily activities around camp this summer.
The first week of camp has been a whirlwind of activity. Through rain and shine we have kept the boys out and about enjoying the northwoods. Clubs have included biking, sailing, swimming for the Mohawks, outdoor adventure, waterskiing, tennis, basketball, target sports and more. All the seniors were out on D2 for Senior Softball practice and will be putting up a good fight vs the counselors on the 4th of July. All around a great week of clubs with top notch instruction and teaching moments.
Evening programs were a huge hit this week with great variety. The standard capture the flag night 1, Human Stratego, Counselor Show #1, our first Social with Agawak on Saturday night and last night the first small pow wow of the summer. Sunday nights are a special time at Kawaga and we pride ourselves in providing the space for the boys to reflect on the week they had, the week that is upcoming and reminding them of the gifts they have received from their parents to be at camp. Some of their comments are well beyond their years and below are a few quotes from last nights pow wow.
- “It feels great to be back at camp and it reminds me of the memories I have created the last 2 years, and gets me excited to create some new ones with all of you.”
-Sioux camper 11yr old.
- “It is important to be respectful of others and try hard in activities, and also cheer in the messhall.””
-Chippewa camper 9yr old
- “Your actions at camp and in life have real consequences and you need to be respectful of your counselors and each other. And refs of games too. They are not professionals.”
-Mohawk camper 13yr old
- At Kawaga you have a great opportunity to get closer with friends you meet here before, and also meet new friends, but also just to come closer to other human beings and other learn from the counselors. That is what I am excited for do this year.
Oneida camper 14yr old
The boys are off to a great start and this week we will be sending out several groups out on trips. Starting with our CIT’s who left this morning for their Boundary Waters Canoe Area trip. The Chips leave later today for a quick one nighter and group 1 will be out for a couple days as well.
Keep checking back for more posts and Reflections From The Shores to come soon. Have a great week! I know we will!