Lauren’s Letter: “Neverland!”

Dear Kawaga Family,

So, I’m experiencing — with sadness and already some retrospect — the end of my second summer at Kawaga and as Co-Director. You’ve all heard the phrase (which is usually less than positive): “Boys will be boys.” At Kawaga, I’d change that to: Boys can be boys!”  

Kawaga is a place where these young men quickly toss aside all the pressures of their school-year lives, essentially throw care to the wind, and can just be boys. It’s like “Neverland” here! Boys don’t feel the pressure to act and look a certain way — instead, they can be themselves (or, as we like to say, “the best version of themselves”). They can simply be boys!

They get to play all day and night and be accepted — and loved — for who they are. So, they’re sort of like the “Lost Boys” of Neverland, except they’re anything but lost. After all, they wear our “compass” logo and have counselors and directors to point them in the right direction (even though they’re encouraged to take their own path to get there).

A few days ago we had an unusually cold day. I was laughing to myself, seeing a bunch of boys happily wearing their bathrobes around camp in lieu of jackets. We’ve got boys who are wearing their PJ pants all day, outfit combos that almost never have one color scheme, inside-out shirts, and the occasional one short and one long sock! They have zero pressure here to look a certain way. They’re among the best of friends at their second home. They’re so comfortable, relaxed, and ever so happy. This is fantasy land!

In the Mess Hall, they sing Miley Cyrus at the top of their lungs. They pick some of the girliest of songs, but these guys have the best time singing together. What a difference from school, where this would never happen!

At camp, boys wake up with their close friends, play all day, cheer their heads off, learn new skills and have new experiences — all without parents or “teachers.” Of course some of us are teachers and coaches by profession, and our staff does plenty of teaching, but it’s different here. It’s camp. It’s family. It’s Kawaga. It’s Neverland.

At Kawaga, boys make plenty of their own decisions. Many are traditionally motivated to learn and to achieve, while others just do it their way. Ty wrote to you recently about how boys work hard to accumulate Mawanda and Sachem points. But, it’s all really up to them. Some take a heads-down, methodical approach, while others do it at their own pace. We don’t say “you have to.” Instead, campers decide what they want to achieve and how. It all comes from them, which makes it that much more meaningful. They’re driving the bus.

And, because they’re making so many of their own decisions, I see a different level of maturity than I see at home, based on the inclusive Kawaga community, where everyone plays an integral part. I’ve never seen this anywhere else. As a high-school teacher, I’m astounded and impressed. But, I’m also enlightened by our Neverland.

So, as I leave you now — not wanting to say goodbye to the 2018 season and to your wonderful boys, I just have to pinch myself. Was this summer a dream? Did this all really happen?! But, before you know it, we’ll be right back here on the Shores next summer!

Parents, your boys need a little rest. They’ve been playing hard and working hard. And, it’s time for us to start getting ready for the summer of 2019 — that is, after Ty and I get back to the “real” world :- )

Thank you for all you do for us.

Be Kawaga,