Lauren’s Letter | “The Kawaga Ripple Effect”

Dear Parents,

We are in our last week of first session. The weeks have just flown by. I am honored to have been able to witness so much excitement, growth of our campers, and the building of life-long friendships.

Our campers grow in so many ways at Kawaga. Many eventually become counselor and pass down the values and traditions to the next cohort of campers. What motivates most? They want to give back.

There’s a really cool ripple effect of campers growing up on the Shores who become counselors and then guide campers through their Kawaga experience. I’ve heard stories from Ty about those special counselors who made such life-changing impacts on him and his peers. Some of these counselors become, in Kawaga’s vernacular, “legends.” They’re the guys who — even if they take a summer or two off — are talked about even when they’re not at camp.

An 8-year-old wide-eyed Chip becomes an 11-year-old Sioux who’s finding his way at camp and  then a 13-year-old confident Mohawk and a 15-year-old CIT who, as the acronym says, is “in training” to be a counselor, These CITs become junior counselors, who experience new levels of independence and responsibility. Along the way, leaders emerge. And legends, too.

With that “Kawaga cycle” as context, you can imagine how I look at all our boys, wondering what each will be known for at camp. Who’s going to become a special counselor, who shares his experience and Kawaga connection with campers? Who’s going to be our next legend?

There’s a continuing growth from camper to counselor to leader to legend. Who’s going to step up and become a leader in Leagues, the Spectacular, or on the docks? Sometimes it’s a surprise; it could be a quiet boy who you’ve never seen in a leadership role but now steps up and exceeds expectations.

Our counselors make every moment matter, even the small ones. I’m in awe of those counselors who start a big cheer in the Mess Hall simply because nothing big happened. They turn what would be an otherwise ordinary moment into an extraordinary one.

Last week, as they often do to our great pleasure, a counselor from a few years ago visited camp. I overheard one of his former campers asking him: “Do you remember when you helped me with my contract for Sachem?” The camper was so pleased that this formative moment that was so important to him was also fondly recalled by his former counselor. Kawaga counselors make moments that will forever be etched in their campers’ memories.

With the little ones, this sense of who they’ll become at Kawaga is only beginning to emerge. It’s really up to them. At Kawaga, those who thrive are those who really find and become comfortable in themselves. So, as I look around the Mess Hall or on the courts, I wonder who’s going to have a breakout moment or a breakout summer and become a leader. You see, Kawaga has always been about having lots of leaders of varying styles and qualities. Be who you are and that’s who you can be at camp.

During Banquet Night, the final night of camp, we award a number of “honor trophies” that reflect Kawaga’s values, like Sportsmanship, Enthusiasm, Fellowship, and Spirit. The honor trophy that in many ways I find the most meaningful is Improvement, as it recognizes a camper who has made a big change over the summer, stepping up in newer and bigger ways –often outside of his own comfort zone.

What’s so heartwarming is that all of the boys so welcome and respect this type of change, embracing new leaders among the campers who may someday be those special counselors and maybe even legends. We want our campers to be themselves and be celebrated for themselves.

Looking forward to seeing many of you this weekend.

Be Kawaga,