Each year, the week before camp starts, we have our entire staff head to the North Woods to get ready for the summer. Precamp is a time that our administration team takes the counselors – returning staff, new international staff, and JCs (our 1st year staff men) – and prepares them to be caring, responsible, creative, mature, role models for your boys. From full days of work detail which includes raking leaves, cleaning cabins, and weed wacking, to more traditional classroom sessions consisting of facilitating cabin discussions, supporting campers with homesickness, and club development (our instructional time). These new and returning staffmen impressed me every day. During sessions, every single counselor was eager to dig deeper and make excellent observations of what will make this an incredible summer. They were able to reflect on their years as campers to share stories and experiences on how to be the best staff to the incredible Kawaga campers.
By Father/Son weekend, our staffmen must be ready to jump into the summer of 2022. As fathers and sons started to arrive for our weekend, I could see a shift in our staff. In the week of preparation, I saw them develop into a cohesive unit armed with new knowledge on how to be an effective counselor. The way our staff greeted each father, son and even a few grandfathers with enthusiastic smiles and genuine interest that came to camp made me proud on many levels.
Events were plentiful – soccer, softball, tennis, paddle, skiing, evening programs including capture the flag and Pros vs Joes -where our counselors compete against our campers and dads, and a favorite of campfires with s’mores. We all enjoyed amazing food – grilled cheese and tomato soup, burgers, bagels and lox, and homemade apple pie.
One of my favorite times of the weekend is the Bay Swim. This is our swim test to make sure campers are ready to swim in the deep water. This is NOT an easy feat. Dads and their sons (with a lifeguard) hop in the water – which isn’t that warm yet, look across the bay -about 200 yards which looks even further when you’re in the water – and swim across the bay. This part is great, but not my favorite. My favorite is seeing each face once they make it. There is pride, a sense of accomplishment, overcoming a challenge, and doing it all with their dads by their side. If someone wasn’t ready to try, or didn’t make it, that’s okay. They can always try again. At the next meal, campers are announced in the Mess Hall (where we eat) and receive a paddle for swimming the bay. The boys know they have faced their first big camp challenge and were able to push through the difficulty and succeed.
At Kawaga, we don’t make things simple, we give you opportunities to push yourself and grow. We’ll support you and be there for you whether you get it on your first try – or if it takes a few times. We don’t walk away from something difficult, we walk towards it as a team and are stronger because of it.
It’s hard to say who had the most fun during Father/Son weekend. The Dads, sons, or staff…maybe we all tied (I’m not very competitive 🙂 ). We all bonded on our shared Kawaga experiences, exchanged stories of summers past and excitement for the summers ahead. This weekend was the perfect start to our camping season.
Each day at Kawaga is a chance to try something new, meet a new friend, accomplish something challenging, and definitely see amazing sunsets. With an incredible precamp and a vibrant Father/Son weekend, we’re just missing one thing…
…Campers arrive Monday…summer of 2022, we’re ready for you!