Reflections from the shoes | Tommy Haverstock’s Sermon

Kawaga Family,

I encourage you to read Tommy Haverstock’s Saturday-morning service. As you know, most boys’ first summer at camp is around the age of nine. Tommy didn’t join us until he was 14. He tells the story of his unlikely path to Kawaga, how he was accepted by boys who had been together for several summers, and the role Kawaga has played in life. Beautifully written, this sermon captures the spirit of Kawaga and what fellowship truly means.

We’re all proud of you, Tommy, and grateful that you’re here this summer sharing your passion with all of us.


Shabbat Shalom,

My name is Tommy Haverstock. This is my fourth year on The Shores, and second on staff. I never thought I’d be the one delivering our weekly sermon — that is until about lunch yesterday.

My path to camp is unlike anything else, and I’m here to debunk some of the rumors. No, I was not looking up videos of Kawaga, but I was watching Minecraft videos when my parents delivered the bombshell that I’d be leaving the house for four straight weeks for my summer as a camper.

I directly went into denial. There was no way my parents could ship me off to some summer camp in the middle of nowhere, Wisconsin. Fast forward four years, and I am delivering a speech to all of my fellow Braves.

So why am I here?

I want you all to think back to a couple of months ago. We were all locked inside our own homes, with almost nothing to do. While it was for the best, quarantine was a tough period of time for everyone. My summers before discovering Camp Kawaga were very similar to those weeks we spent inside. Video games, YouTube videos, Netflix binging, and a whole lot more of nothing. Sure, it was tolerable for a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t even imagine what I was missing.

My first summer on The Shores was a complete 180 from my prior 13 at home. Yes, I was 14 years old and entering my Group One summer. And yes, I was crying out of fear on the bus ride up. Being placed in a cabin and told to eat meals with complete strangers. Random Mess Hall chaos when all I was trying to do was eat. Building fires and sleeping in a tent. All I wanted to do was take a quick rest, but camp was nonstop.

Many people remember a specific moment when they first recognize they belong at Kawaga. For me, that actually came in a moment of fear. After misbehaving during instructional swims, Ty sent my age group down to the waterfront for Leagues. We were sentenced to 15 minutes of treading water, so we decided to sing “Oh They Had to Carry Harry to the Ferry” and cheered to pass the time. After 15 grueling minutes, we were informed of yet another challenge. We needed to complete 10 jump-and-catch passes off of the high dive before enjoying Open Areas. I’ll never forget snagging the final three tennis balls and saving my friends from more discipline.

It was at that moment where I realized that camp was about more than just the activities. It was the people. My fellow CIT’s (a shoutout to all the 18s!) treated me like a longtime friend. I was not ready, nor was I expecting, all of the warmth and compassion that flowed throughout Cabin 24 and the Oneidas. If it weren’t for the people, I wouldn’t be standing here today.

So what do I want you all to take away?

Camp has added an entirely new dimension to my life. There’s a piece within all of us that is Camp Kawaga. And that won’t ever change. Before finding Kawaga my life consisted of school, video games, friends, and the Chicago Bears. Today, I still value school, video games, friends, and Mitch. However, my identity doesn’t stop there. I lived in the wilderness for a whole week and conquered Boundaries. I used my voice and poise to help lead a Spectacular team. I pushed myself and others towards reaching their goals, guiding my campers towards Mawanda and Sachem.

So, 10% of Tommy is a stereotypical high school student. But 90% of who I am, is from this place. Ninety percent of Tommy is a strong leader, a courageous ally, a thoughtful Brave. Camp has added more to my life than I could hve ever imagined. And I can confidently predict the same for all of you.

Whether you’re an athlete, a wilderness-specialist, a jokester, or a Minecraft junkie, Kawaga has a vivid presence in both your mind and soul.

So for the time we have left at the greatest place on earth, I want each of you to go into every activity with an intention. Whether it’s sweeping the cabin during inspection or running through an all-night treasure hunt, try to find what Kawaga adds to your identity.

I want you all to understand that you belong here, and you are an important piece in the great history of Kawaga. One hundred and five summers later, we are the ones who get the opportunity to leave our mark. Thank you.