Many of us have leafed through annual Pineneedles of the past, almost always stopping to read that year’s dedication. Perhaps more than any other artifact, it preserves our history by telling the story of not only who uniquely contributed to Kawaga’s legacy, but also the historical context of their contributions throughout our now 106 summers.
So, each year we dedicate the Pineneedle to an individual — or sometimes a group of individuals — whose contributions to Kawaga are transcendent. After all, we’re a nation of many generations who, because of our shared experience and connection, are motivated to give back to Kawaga. We all dream of giving our sons, nephews, and grandsons the gift of spending summers on The Shores. For most of us, that could be many years from now. But, as we all understand, we must look into the future without ever forgetting the past. And, this singular summer of 2020 will be one that we’ll always remember with great pride, gratitude, and humility.
There were questions as to whether we’d even be here together this summer — as to whether Kawaga would open. We struggled with the decision, as its consequences were profound. But, we were determined. For 105 years, during two World Wars, previous health epidemics, and historic economic hardships, Kawaga has always stood as a beacon to its brave.
Yet, it wasn’t a single individual, nor was it a single group of individuals, who led us to and through this life-affirming summer. Instead, many individuals and groups of individuals who — through their vision, strength, and commitment — assured that Kawaga’s 106th summer would be a reality. Because of their collective effort and determination, those of us fortunate enough to have spent the summer of 2020 on The Shores will have memories and lessons to last a lifetime.
Therefore, with great pride, we dedicate the 2020 Annual Pineneedle to the Kawaga Nation. We are stronger when we are socially, emotionally, and physically together. We know the value of standing up in the storm.
First, to our campers of 2020. You are why we’re here. Your smiles, your achievements, your passion. You make it all worthwhile. During the cold winter nights, as you dreamt about this summer, you couldn’t possibly have imagined just how different getting here and being here for the first two weeks would be. But, you did it with enthusiasm. And, you grew from the experience of being physically separated from the other groups for 14 days. If we thought beating Menominee was a victory to celebrate, now we all know that keeping our eyes on the prize of truly Being Kawaga made those two weeks all the more meaningful. Campers, take these lessons back with you to your homes and your communities. You have a new strength and understanding that will serve you well for many years. But, please, return to these Shores again and again, so that you may teach the lessons you learned to those younger, and someday your own sons will say, “my father, whose Sachem name I share, was here in 2020.”
Second, to our parents of 2020. We can’t begin to thank our campers’ families enough for your trust in us; your belief in Kawaga; and your determination to give your sons a summer to remember. You were there with us at the start of this journey, back in March, partnering with us to open camp. We know the decision to send your sons to camp this summer wasn’t easy, especially in the face of uncertainties and with many of our sister and brother camps (where your daughters, nephews and nieces attend) making the decision not to open. But, there you were waiting patiently in line at our drive-up station in the Deerfield High School parking lot or in another camp family’s home to have your sons tested to assure they were Covid-free. And, it was truly a test of your determination as well as a testament to your fortitude. And, there you were again at the drive-by goodbye at our bus site, hugging your son and quickly opening the car door, while you smiled reassuringly at him and at us. Your boys have learned so much this summer about bravery, friendship, and compassion. You gave them a summer of laughter, friendship, normality, and peace in the special bubble we together created.
Third, to our staff. As with all of these other just-listed Kawaga Nation “cohorts” you were the most essential group to #CK2020. Your early-on commitment, your bravery, and your creativity made this summer possible. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to be a Kawaga camper also have dreams of being Kawaga counselor. What you experienced this summer was previously unimaginable; it wasn’t the counselor experience you had long anticipated. But because of what you’ve now been through, we have no doubt that you’ve gained more from this camping season than any other in our long and rich history. Gone were your much-needed days and nights out, replaced by lessons and experiences that no doubt will shape your character and bode you well for your futures. We thank you with all our hearts.
Fourth, to our alumni. In many ways, you guys are the keepers of the Kawaga Spirit. Our lifeblood. You make sure we pass down not just many of our traditions — but more so our ideals — to the next generation and the next. We missed you in 2020, which marked important anniversaries for so many of our CIT groups. That means next summer’s Alumni Weekend will be that much more poignant and celebratory. When parents or campers ask me what Fellowship really means, I point to you. And, when I need help, I ask you. You’re there for Kawaga. And, Kawaga will always be there for you. As we say, you can take the camper out of Kawaga, but you can never take Kawaga out of the camper.
Next, to our owners. Fisher and Daube families: What more can I say but thank you for making Kawaga’s 106th summer possible; for trusting and supporting Lauren and me to open and run camp during this unprecedented summer; for your unwavering confidence in the Kawaga Nation; and for providing us with everything and more we could possibly need to create the bubble that allowed us to Be Kawaga in 2020.
Fisher families: For 35 years you have stewarded the Kawaga Nation. We all owe you our undying gratitude for all your work, your love, and your steady leadership to assure Kawaga’s present and future. Bobby and Arna, Michael and Suzette, Marc and Evelyn, Duke and Stacey, thank you for modeling humility, so that we may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
Daube family: Ryan and Andi, thank you for literally moving your home to The Shores in April. You lent us not only your hearts but also your hands to assure our opening. This summer would not have happened without your boundless energy and determination. We’ll be forever grateful.
Finally, to my family: Kawaga is much more than our second home. It’s who we are and where we want to be. Lauren, you are my partner in life and at camp. You’ve adopted this special place, and the Kawaga Nation has adopted you as our co-director and leading mom. Shay, Vaughn, and Dane: you are not only our family, you are an important part of the Kawaga family, and I know that Kawaga is now part of you. Thank you for sharing your parents with so many of your big brothers and sisters.
Until next summer…
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Be Kawaga. Always.