Dear Parents and Alumni,
I invite you to take the time to read Ben Griffin’s Saturday-morning sermon, as it encapsulates how so many feel who have been fortunate enough to spend their summers on the Shores.
Those campers and counselors who return summer after summer do so — not because of our myriad activities or our beautiful setting, but because of friendships, inclusiveness, and lessons taught and learned.
As I trust you all know, my name is Ben Griffin. This is my 10th year at camp and my second on staff. For some, it might take a little time to get fully adjusted here and really feel like it’s home. I knew Kawaga was the place for me since my first summer in Chip 1. I was lucky to have two cousins on staff and an older brother — guys I could look up to here; and, our relationships have only strengthened because of the love we share for this place. But while my admiration for Kawaga has never changed throughout my camping career, my perspective and view of overnight camp did when I moved to from suburban Chicago to the city.
In Glencoe, where I spent my first 10 years, it was normal and kind of expected to go to overnight camp. That’s not the case in the city of Chicago, where I moved when I going into fifth grade. In the city, overnight camp is simply just not understood among many city people; in fact my friends at my school thought summer camp was weird.
This perception of camp held by my classmates continued into high school, where the idea of missing out on Lollapalooza, sleeping late, making more money at a summer job, and hanging out with friends at home was considered crazy. My friends at home just don’t get camp.
But to me, being one of the only city kids to have this experience, which I share with all of you, made me realize just how more fortunate and lucky I am to be here.
Make no mistake about it: behind our long row of cabins that have stood here for decades, we have true luxury. Kawaga is a kid’s dream playground. Where else can you go skiing, sailing, jump off a high dive, and play a game of tennis or shoot some hoops all in one day in such beauty?
But beyond all the activities, what I’m most grateful for is our community and inclusion. Everyone is welcomed into here on Day One. There’s no better place in the world to be yourself and let loose more than Camp Kawaga. Here, it’s okay for a teenage boy to shed tears; and, it’s not only okay but even encouraged to make mistakes. After all, that’s how we learn.
In being myself at camp, I’ve learned more about myself than I could’ve ever imagined — more than at any other place in the world. I’ve learned how to be resilient and stand up in the storm, by swimming the bay after seven weeks of trying and finally conquering my fears. I learned how to work for and achieve big goals, learning how to master myself as I continued to raise my standards on how to conduct myself as a leader at camp. I learned how to be humble and gentle in victory by being on the winning side of leagues games and competition. And, I learned how to act proud and unbending in defeat whole being on the losing side in close games to cabin mates during the Spectacular and Blue Gold Cup.
As I’m sure you’ve heard from others, people really do look their entire to try to find the type of loving community that’s right here at Camp Kawaga. Some, sadly, never find it. Some never find the type of relationships and bonds you can create here; nor do they have the countless memories that come from so many special moments on the Shores. We should never take for granted that we are welcomed with open arms at Kawaga no matter our background. What a camp family we all have!
When someone asked me what Kawaga means to me in just one word, I thought of a word that may not come first to mind. Stability. I feel like in life there is this great search for stability. The partner we can love until we die, the job we can do passionately everyday, and the home in which we can raise our own children. Kawaga gives us that stability. Every summer I have come here to have another fun and amazing summer. And, every summer, I achieve that. My Kawaga friendships are my closest, and they continue to get stronger. I’m so grateful for receiving this special gift of stability at such a young age.
So before I leave you, I want to say that the best way to take advantage of the great luxury and opportunity all of us share today is to never miss a heartbeat at camp. Live every moment to the fullest. Turn a little moment into a huge memory, even when do something like brushing your teeth or playing trivia for desserts. And, never forget to soak in and appreciate our beautiful natural surroundings everyday.
Time flies by way too fast here. So, live in the moment and take advantage of every second. Remember, there’s not only a world of other boys out there who would do anything to be here, but a world of people of all ages who would do anything to be part of a family like this. Thank you.