Parents and Alumni,
Please read Jackson Froelich’s sermon. It’s as honest and as heartfelt as any I’ve ever heard. He’s quite a young man, and Kawaga is so fortunate to have him on staff. I can’t thank him for sharing his story with all of us.
Be Proud. Be Kawaga.
Shabbat Shalom. Hi my name is Jackson Froelich. This is my 12th year at Camp Kawaga and my second on staff.
There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of how grateful I am for this place. As a young kid, I was bullied at home. I don’t need to go into details but it really took a toll on me. I would sit at home and wonder why I wasn’t good enough, or what it was that I did to make me so hateable. I hated how it felt to be the one who was always put down, or the one others look at and laugh about. But then I went to Kawaga. Here you can be anyone. I took that as a chance to be the bully. I wanted to feel powerful. I wanted to feel good like I thought the kids at home felt.
Quickly I became the person that I was coming to this place to escape from.
As time went on and things at home got worse, things got worse here, too. I would have to switch cabins every session because my cabinmates couldn’t stand to be with me any longer. I would try to go to free swim alone because nobody wanted to go with me, and when they would, we would quickly fight and leave. I found myself just as isolated here as I felt at home, only it hurt a lot worse.
One day in particular that stands out to me was the last day of Mohawk B summer. My cabin and I got into a huge fight as usual and we ended up having to talk to the directors. This wasn’t the first time this happened, but this time was definitely the worst. After the talk, I ran back to my cabin and got under my sleeping bag and hid. I was still hiding when my cabin mates came back into the cabin. They were talking about me.
“God I hate him so much, I can’t wait to leave so I don’t have to see him for ten months”
“Why did we have to get stuck with him? He’s the worst”
“I hope he never comes back”
I never came out of my hiding spot, and I never told them that I heard this either. I just stayed there for what I had decided was going to be my last Open Areas. I knew I didn’t belong here. And I didn’t think I had it in me to become better, so I gave up. I went home and I told my parents that I hated it here and that I was never coming back.
After a few months at home I had no idea what I was going to do without this place. I felt utterly alone and I knew I was unwanted here. I tried so hard to find something else to do, but deep down I knew that there was nowhere in the world that could bring me the joy that this place does.
I was talking to my brother about camp one day and he asked me a great question.
“Why do you have to be the way that you are? Do you know how much it sucks to be your brother sometimes?”
I sat there stunned in silence, and he instantly apologized and told me he didn’t mean it like that. I knew he did, but more importantly, I knew that he was right. I went to my room that day and opened up an annual Pineneedle. As I read through it, I got to “The Man in the Glass.” As a camper, I never really cared about those words as I felt they were unimportant and didn’t apply to me. In that moment, however, I felt as if nothing in the world mattered more.
“The man in the glass says you’re only a bum if you can’t look him straight in the eye.”
I went to my mirror that day and looked at myself. I didn’t recognize the man staring back. I was a shell of a kid who no longer had any idea who he really was. At that moment I decided I would change. I decided I was going to be the person I wanted to be and that I was going to do whatever I could to make up for the one I became.
I came back to camp that year on a mission. Be Better. I had the best summer of my life. It wasn’t easy. For a while everyone thought I was faking it and that the bad was coming later, but eventually they realized that I was actually trying to change, and to my surprise, they accepted me. I started to see kids smile when I walked by instead of turning away. Kids in my own age group would come up to me and ask to free swim. Counselors even started to ask for my help when a situation came up in my cabin.
It was on the last night of the summer that I realized I succeeded in my goal. During Banquet Night I won the award for Most Improved Camper. After my name was announced and I was going up to get the award, my brother gave me the biggest hug and said words I will never forget. “I love you so much and I’m so proud of who you are.”
I went to the bathrooms that night and looked at myself in the mirror and smiled. I saw a true Kawga Brave looking back at me.
Now, I didn’t say all of this for your pity, or to make you understand me better, I said it to show you how incredible this place is. Camp Kawaga makes even the most challenged kids strive to become better just so that they can be here for longer. Camp Kawaga makes kids that anyone would be proud to call a friend. But most importantly, Camp Kawaga makes sure anybody can call this place home.
Because that’s what this place is. HOME