Ck2020 Special Dedication


We couldn’t be prouder or more grateful that our leader, Ty Simpson, has chosen to dedicate the annual Pineneedle to all of us. We’re honored and moved.

With characteristic humility, Ty acknowledges and praises the efforts and accomplishments of many. He makes us feel better, safe, motivated, and determined. He’s a leader. Our leader And he’s Brave.

To those of us fortunate to have known Ty for many years, we’re not surprised that he has courageously led the Kawaga Nation to and through the most perilous summer of our 106-year history. During all those years, camp has never missed a summer, despite other traumatic events that brought many other camps to a close. Ty was determined.

What does it really mean to be Brave?

In March, when our world was changing as the pandemic was beginning to rage, Ty, together with Kawaga’s owners, began discussing whether to open Kawaga for the summer of 2020. The health data changed almost daily. The risks were great. The decision would be difficult and impact so many. And there was Ty.

What does it really mean to be Brave?

The storm of ’99 was one for the ages. It ripped through camp, uprooted pines, and tore apart roofs. Half of the counselors were at Menominee for a staff soccer competition, when the storm suddenly unleashed its fury. It flattened Cabin 7, home to five 10-year-olds whose counselor was in the Menominee group. And there was Ty. Running through the loop of fallen trees and leading the safe evacuation of even more cabins.

On Day 2 of the 2005 CIT Boundary Waters trip, one of the campers was stung by a bee and suffered a severe allergic reaction. After using a syringe to administer epinephrine, one of the two counselors arranged a seaplane to rush him to a hospital, where he recovered. That left only one counselor to manage the bulk of this challenging trip, essentially flying solo. And there was Ty. The CITs had a trip of a lifetime.

Sixteen summers later, a special tapping ceremony commemorated Kawaga’s 100th year. Campers, counselors, and alumni lined up on D1 facing the bay, listening ever so intently for the sound of a paddle breaking the water and the sight of the Special Runner sprinting by the row of faces lit up by his torch. The speed and the movement were familiar but came from summers past. And there was Ty. Unbeknownst to almost all, he arrived at camp shortly before the ceremony after driving from his job in Chicago. No one had tapped more campers in Kawaga’s history or with such pride, passion, and meaning.

So, it should come as no surprise that Ty was there again in 2020. As he led our efforts to jump through unprecedented hurdles, we all looked to his leadership. When it came time to decide whether to open, in the face of uncertainty, we looked to our leader. He led our planning — protocols, procedures, procurement of new supplies. He trained our staff, brought on a stronger medical team, partnered with our parents and alumni, and got us ready to open.

The day before camp was to begin, several Covid tests came back “indeterminate,” perhaps halting our ability to make it to The Shores. But again, there was Ty. Calmly and confidently, he jumped over more obstacles than he did even that stormy day 21 years ago; he assured parents that we’d get the testing done with just hours to go. And, we all made it to The Shores. Fourteen days later, after living in pods and retesting, none of us will ever forget the moment when Ty announced, with megaphone in hand, “Let’s go! The coronavirus does not live at Camp Kawaga.”

As Ty wrote, we’re stronger together. We know the value of standing up in the storm. Ty thoughtfully chose those Kawaga dark-blue Brave t-shirts that the staff proudly wore this summer. Ty exemplifies Brave. And, he inspires us to be Brave. It’s why we’ve been on The Shores for six glorious weeks together. Life-affirming. Life-changing. Life-defining.

Ty has graciously dedicated the annual Pineneedle to the Kawaga Nation: its campers, families, staff, alumni, and owners. Now, we, the Kawaga Nation, dedicate this singular summer of 2020 to our leader Ty Simpson, Raging Falcon, Chief of the Kawaga Nation.

“A son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be.”