For almost 50 years, Kawaga has awarded nine honor trophies, often named after the people who have stewarded Kawaga during our 107-year history.
Beginning next summer, the Fisher Family ‘Be Kawaga Trophy’ will be awarded to the staff member who best embodies and models Kawaga’s four core values—Enthusiasm, Sportsmanship, Fellowship, and Spirit—during the camping season and the offseason through personal achievement and service to others.
Friday night, the trophy for 2021 was awarded to the four Fisher Brothers—Bobby, Michael, Marc, and Duke—who exemplify the meaning of ‘Be Kawaga’ through their commitment to the camp, campers and their families, alumni, and staff and leadership.
I invite you to read the words Pete Zollo shared with us Friday night about how we got to this moment in our history, knowing you’ll appreciate the context of the Fisher Family’s personal achievements and service to others.
I want to tell you a story at least part of which many of you have heard before. It’s one that bears retelling. It’s one I hope gets passed down to your children and theirs.
It’s the story of how we got here. It’s about Kawaga’s inspiring founding and amazing continuity. It’s a story of three families that spans more than a century.
As we all know, Dr. Bernard Ehrenreich, a rabbi from Birmingham, Alabama by way of New York, had as his mission to advocate for youth. And, he wanted to that through the Great Outdoors and a boys’ summer camp. He was hellbent on finding a site for his camp that would become his platform for guiding boys’ growth into manhood.
After striking out in finding what he was looking for in the state of Maine in 1914, Doc E and his family summered in Wisconsin in 1915, where he once again searched for his site. It looked as if he had again struck out until the very last day before he and his family were to depart. And he found it. A 250-acre pine- and birch-forested peninsula with a spectacular stretch of lakefront. On Lake Kawaguesaga.
That was the birth of Camp Kawaga, which Doc E went on to direct for the next quarter of a century. When he was ready to retire, there stood his son Lou, one of Kawaga’s original 13 campers. Beginning in 1941 and continuing for another quarter century, Lou grew Kawaga, based on his father’s vision and his own dedication and personal passion, into one of the premier summer camps in the country.
Then, in 1968, in a ceremony never to be forgotten, Lou passed the torch to another family, the Silversteins. Ron and Liz, as Lou said, were the right choice to carry on, enlarge, and elaborate on all that Kawaga means.” Ron and Liz carried that torch for 18 years. Similar to Lou and Dag, they didn’t have a family member ready to step in.
There comes a pivotal point in the story of every organization. It’s when it either moves forward — often in vibrant new ways — or ceases to be.
I’d say the pivotal point in the story of Camp Kawaga was in 1986. The Silversteins and their business partners found a buyer, but this buyer had a different vision for Kawaga’s 160 acres. The grounds and surrounding forests would become something much different: a spectacular Northwoods fishing and hunting lodge.
So, another family stepped up. A Kawaga family.
Brothers Bobby, the oldest at age 30, Michael, Marc, and David (Duke) learned about this sale and decided to move quickly to change what would mean the end of Kawaga as we know it. Through their diligence, dedication, and enthusiasm, they successfully negotiated to buy back the center of camp, the site we think of as Camp Kawaga. The Fishers stepped in, stepped up, and assured that Camp Kawaga, a place which meant so much to so many, would continue to be here for the next generation and the next.
They saved Camp Kawaga and grew it into what it’s become today – a vibrant, ever-evolving place that has stayed true to Doc E’s mission of molding boys into men by teaching life lessons and connecting generations through a magical experience and spirit.
The Fishers were determined to lead Kawaga to its 100-year anniversary, by building upon the vision and work of the two previous families, while securing, strengthening, and reimagining its future.
So, under the proud wings of Bobby and Arna, Michael and Suzette, Marc and Evelyn, and Duke and Stacey, Kawaga entered its second century, still guided by its core values of Enthusiasm, Fellowship, Sportsmanship, and Spirit and the 236 words of the Kawaga Ideal that we all know by heart and hold close to our hearts.
Thanks in great part to the ongoing and incredible investment in our facilities and grounds by the Fisher and Daube families, camp has never looked more beautiful than it does today.
So, the Fishers’ successful save of camp was a win for us all. And, in thinking about how they did — what they did, one phrase jumps out: “humble and gentle in victory.”
So, it follows that there’s one thing you don’t see around camp despite Kawaga’s ownership resting in the hands of a single family for the past third of a century: the Fisher name.
Well, tonight we’re going to change that.
So, let me hand this off to our director to tell you more. Ty….
— Pete Zollo / High Chief