Ben Fisher’s Saturday Sermon
Good morning and Shabbat Shalom,
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ben Fisher and I’m so proud to serve as president of
Camp Kawaga. I’d like to introduce you to my wife, Amy, as well as our three children, Julia, Ava, and
future Kawaga brave Noah.
We’re thrilled to welcome you to Kawaga’s Visitors Weekend 2023. Today, and everyday, Kawaga is
filled with people whose love of, and commitment to camp, allow us to pursue our mission of
character building– each and every day. That includes each and every one of you.
I’d like to begin today by expressing gratitude to our campers parents and families, thank you for
your trust and confidence in Kawaga’s ability to care for your boys and to provide for them the gift
of camping. We take this responsibility seriously, and we work every day to maintain that trust.
To the best camp staff in the country–along with our leadership team–you are the absolute heart
and soul of Kawaga. Your hard work and dedication to our campers enable them to reach their
highest potential as kind, caring, and capable individuals and your impact on their lives extends far
beyond the shores of lake Kawaguesaga. On behalf of all of us, thank you for your passion and
devotion to Camp Kawaga.
To Brandon Komarek, our director of facilities, who is responsible for and deserves all of our gratitude
for keeping Kawaga beautiful all year long. As much as anyone who has ever stepped foot on our
grounds, Brandon understands and appreciates Kawaga and our mission.
To Bri Fowlie, our director of operations and program, so much of our success and growth is a direct
result of your tireless work ethic and love for all things Kawaga. More importantly, your pulse on our
campers and staff, and commitment to elevating their experience, keeps us moving forward and
makes Kawaga a better place every single day.
To Jeff and Bridget–we are all so lucky to have you back at Kawaga. Bridget, you along with our
outstanding nurses Steph and Taylor, inspire confidence that our campers and staff are in great
hands physically and emotionally. And Jeff, your presence elevates everything we do. Your insights,
humor, coaching and commitment to instruction further differentiates our program and sets a new
standard each day for excellence.
I want to especially thank and recognize our outstanding directors, Ty and Lauren Simpson–for your
leadership, collaborative spirit, and steadfast commitment to always doing what’s best for Camp
Kawaga. I look forward to continued partnership and shared success.
And finally I’d like to thank Andi and Ryan Daube, for your partnership and friendship. Amy and I,
along with the extended Fisher family, truly appreciate your unwavering support, passion, and love
For the past fifty five years, which represents more than half of Kawaga’s 109 camping seasons, my
family has been privileged to be associated with Camp Kawaga. We’ve been the stewards and
owners of Kawaga since 1986. Now, together with the Daube family, we are tasked with the
responsibility of ensuring Kawaga’s mission remains as strong today as it was in 1915. In short,
Kawaga is about character building. in the words of Doc E, Kawaga’s founder: “fun, yes–but always
with the thought in mind of the final effect on the boy.”
The magic of what happens on these shores everyday, and what has been possible for over a
century, is the direct result of the people who comprise the Kawaga nation.
As most of you know, one of Kawaga’s most treasured assets is the Kawaga Ideal– a father’s prayer
for his son that serves as the guiding ethos upon which our culture is built. I encourage you all to
take a moment to read the Ideal. Or even better, ask your camper to recite it to you.
Among the many lessons the Ideal teaches is resilience. It reminds us that we learn not from “ease
and comfort” but from “difficulties and challenges.” As we know all too well, it’s not easy to be a
young person in today’s world. everyday pressures, often fueled by social media, are
disproportionately felt by our youth.
The very first word of the Kawaga Ideal captures what we’re all about. That word appears again at
the Ideal’s midpoint. It conveys two key ideas: that we’re all a work in progress and that although
resilience is an essential quality, it’s not innate. Rather, it’s something that’s built. “Build me a son…”
Yes, Kawaga fosters a “building” environment for our campers, our staff, and our leadership. We
celebrate the journey of growth and the process of improvement. Of setting goals and learning from
our mistakes along the way to become better people.
In a world where our kids are too often weighed down by the everyday stresses of growing up amid
new uncertainties, at Kawaga we lean into our four core values of spirit, sportsmanship, enthusiasm,
and, especially, fellowship.
Kawaga teaches us to work hard and support our teammates. Whether overcoming a new
camper’s homesickness, gaining the confidence to earn a skiing miracle, or finding your own drive
to make sachem for the very first time.
Kawaga creates the space to take safe chances and set goals while understanding that failure in
the moment is okay, so long as we learn from it and ultimately prove to ourselves what is possible in
each of us. And, when campers do reach that goal, there’s simply nothing like that Mess Hall
announcement or ringing of the bay swim bell. And the roar of support from your cheering friends.
That is Kawaga.
Challenging ourselves and each other to be better, to be more complete and confident. To be
vulnerable and courageous. To be optimistic, ambitious and resilient. To be a better friend, a
compassionate man, a kinder soul. In other words, to be Kawaga.
Everyday, we’re building something special at Camp Kawaga– character.
Thank you, Shabbat Shalom
Ty Simpson’s Welcome Message
Welcome, everybody, to Camp Kawaga.
As you’ve heard this morning and as you’ll no doubt experience throughout the weekend, Kawaga
means many things to many of us. One thing I know we all feel is that Kawaga means FAMILY. And,
it’s not just a summer family – it’s so much more.
There are a few special families I want to thank right now.
First, campers, I want to thank you and your families. Campers: You are the reason we’re here. You
give us purpose, ENERGY, FULFILLMENT AND JOY. Please always remember – as we talked about the
other night – that the reason you’re here is because of your families. They want what you want and
we want: For you to have the summer of your life, while making memories and friendships for a
lifetime. And learning lessons that can become guideposts throughout your lives.
Let me next thank the Kaplan family. You heard from Jeff today, who has added so much to the
professional growth of our staff after years of bringing so much enthusiasm and fellowship to
Kawaga. It is so fun to work and learn from a friend like Jeff. I’m sure many of you have already met
Bridget Kaplan, who’s our outstanding medical director leading the charge with all things health and
wellness – assisted with our nursing team Taylor Mathisen and Steph Hall.
Next, let me next thank the Fisher Family for their continued support. It’s not an understatement to
say that we would not all be here if not for the Fishers. But today I especially want to thank Ben
Fisher, who has taken on the full-time role of President of Camp Kawaga and whose vision, creativity,
and leadership have guided our growth that you’ll experience firsthand today as you walk our
grounds and speak with our staff.
Next, I want to thank the Daube Family, whose investment and involvement in Camp Kawaga has in
many ways fueled our growth. You’ve seen their beautiful home at camp’s new entrance. And what
we value so much is their everyday engagement. From Andi teaching racquet sports and filling in
wherever needed to Ryan reffing games, providing support and guidance for our staff and
encouragement for our campers.
Finally, I want to thank my own family, especially Lauren, who shines in her role as Camp Mom
providing comfort for all our campers. And, I want to thank our three children, Shay, Vaughn, and
Dane, for sharing us with your children and becoming an important part of Kawaga themselves,
your accomplishments this summer make mom and dad proud.
So, yes, we’re a family – and that includes every one of us sitting here today taking in the beauty of
Kawaga. As Ben so eloquently spoke about the challenges of being a young person in today’s world,
we view our relationship with our families as a Partnership in Parenting. You’ll be hearing from us not
only during the summer, but during the offseason as well. Please let us hear from you, too – how we
can support and work together in helping your boys grow into the men they can be – that live
meaningful, fulfilling lives that make themselves and all of us proud.
So, parents, enjoy the special time with your boys today at Kawaga. When so many other camps no
longer have traditional visitor weekends, we hope you take the time to really see and understand
the connection your boys have to Kawaga.
Right after we’re done here, we’ll be going to Open Areas, where you can watch your boys
participate in an activity of their choice. And, then, we welcome you to enjoy a Kawaga lunch.
Speaking of which, let me thank our best-in-class Mess Hall team, headed by Chef Memo.
Campers, Parents, and Staff: Be Grateful. Be Proud. Be Kawaga.