‘ED’-itorial: Entranced by the Kawaga Spirit

Hi Kawaga Family,

My name is Ed List, and I’m spending my first summer at Kawaga. I’m not a typical first-year “staff man.” Instead I’m an energetic, enthusiastic 72-year-old grandfather from Louisville! I retired from a career in operations, but have always been an outdoors guy. So, as you can imagine, I’m loving every minute of being “on the Shores.”

My grandson, who’s a camper (and is in the photo above with me), introduced me to Kawaga. I’ve loved his stories, the photos, and the values that Kawaga teaches. So, I reached out to Ty to see if he thought I could bring some value to Kawaga. And, here I am. Ty’s giving me lots of freedom to contribute throughout camp. I’m teaching fishing, canoeing, and spending lots of time down at the waterfront. I’m also filling in gaps, where and when needed — from taking photos to helping organize campers receiving meds at Crow’s Nest.

“But still when two or three shall meet, and old tales be retold,
from North to South throughout the land, we’ll pledge the Blue and Gold.”

I first read the above passage in last year’s annual Pineneedle, which Ty gave to me when we first met. I thought these words made for nice poetry. But, boy, I had no idea how deep and unique is the bond that campers and counselors hold for each other and for this special place that is Kawaga!

My first in-person exposure to the Kawaga Spirit came during Alumni Weekend, just one week before the campers arrived. I saw grown men ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s reuniting and reliving their days at Kawaga. Many of them have been coming to camp since they are age eight or nine. I witnessed an incredible show of togetherness for three generations of men.

Alumni Weekend was closely followed by “Pre-Camp,” a full week of intense staff training, where everybody worked closely and enthusiastically together to get camp ready and prepare for the boys’ arrival.

What I had expected to find when I arrived with the staff was a group of young people coming together for a summer job on a picturesque lake in northern Wisconsin. Instead, what I found was nothing short of a lovefest with Camp Kawaga — an enthusiasm that seemed to have no bounds. What an amazing group of dedicated counselors!

So, I first felt this Spirit from Ty, then from the Alumni, and finally from the counselors. I started to “get” it — Kawaga was a lot more than another camp. The Kawaga Spirit is passed down from generation to generation.

All this leads me to the campers themselves and how the Kawaga Spirit comes full circle. From the acorn grows the mighty oak. I’ve now observed this firsthand — how the love for this place and the values it holds transcends time and age.

I’ve tried to explain all this to my family and friends, who — like me just three weeks ago — can’t possibly get it. As one of the international staff members, who was returning for his second year from thousands of miles away, told me: “You can’t explain it; you have to experience it.” I’m starting to get it. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll be able to explain it better. But for now, please know that I’m honored to be a part of an incredibly special place.

Heck of a start! Can’t wait for this special July 4th week…