I invite you to read Max Pollack’s sermon, as he tells the story of his unique journey from being a rookie camper to a staff leader. We all have our own stories of how we arrived at Kawaga and how we thrived. Max’s is particularly moving, honest, and inspiring.
As Max says, “Be Great.”
Shabbat shalom, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Max Pollack and this is my 9th summer at camp, or 10th, depending on who you ask. My journey to camp was a little different than a lot of yours in this room right now. I first came to the shores in 2011 as a rookie camper, only staying 2 weeks. In all honesty, I hated those 2 weeks. I had no friends, I knew no one from home, and I didn’t love my counselors. Those 2 weeks had such a negative impact on me I didn’t return the following summer. However, Even though I didn’t enjoy my first year at Kawaga, and did not return the following year, something about this place drew me back.
Returning to the shores in 2013 was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I dealt with homesickness, fears of being a new camper, staying a whole month somewhere completely foreign, and not coming to camp with any close friends. Yet, within the first week of being in Sioux City East, I began to feel comfortable at camp. Soon, I made new friends, in and outside of the cabin. Many of those kids I met that summer I still speak to today, some of whom are sitting in this room. But more importantly I had a counselor that was always there for me, whether I had a bad day or I was homesick.
His name was Groody. Groody is the reason I came back, summer after summer, and the reason that I’m still here today. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, he showed me what Kawaga was really about. Spirit(John Haines), enthusiasm(Frank Kaplan), sportsmanship(Jason Gottlieb), fellowship(Josh Levitan) SAID BY CAMPERS
While Groody did keep me coming back year after year, I stopped short of returning for my most important summer, CIT year. Going into the summer of 2018 I had a momentary lapse of judgment, I forgot all that Kawaga meant to me. Missing my CIT summer is still to this day my biggest regret in life. Over the summer of 2018 I realized, yet again, I needed Kawaga. 2018s, I love you.
In all honesty, although I look back on missing my CIT summer as my biggest regret of my life, it is the best decision I have ever made. While that does seem odd, allow me to explain. In my head, I thought my time at Kawaga had come to an end. The reason I missed my CIT summer was because I wanted to be like everyone else and get a day job working at home, all because I thought I was missing out. I was wrong. It took spending a full summer away from Kawaga to realize what this place truly means to me.
All these years later, the tables have turned, now I fill the role of being a counselor, having an impact on camp as a whole. Specifically, the group 1’s. These guys have been with me since my first year on staff. Even though they’ve put me, and many other counselors in some pretty frustrating situations over the years, there’s no other age group that I’d rather have had the pleasure or being with, year after year. You push me to be better every day. I can’t think of a group of people that have helped me grow more than you guys. Love you boys.
My one piece of advice that I offer you all, is to put yourself in the position to be a leader, as much as you can. Whether it’s being vocal in the mess hall, giving all you possibly can in leagues, in open a/s, and in the cabin. Possibly the biggest opportunity I’ve had to lead while at camp has been as a coach. Whether it’s in the blue/gold cup, specky, leagues, or as a coach against menominee. My favorite moment at camp was coaching my brother in Senior A Hoops vs Menominee. Even though I’ve had the opportunity to coach Jake before, I’ve never been as proud as I was that day. The way you carried yourself and stepped up in a moment of that caliber was incredible to watch. It is a moment that I know I’ll look back upon for years to come. I’m incredibly proud of the kid you have become, and I know that you will do great things in the future. I’m so grateful that we’ve gotten to spend all these years at camp together, nothing means more to me. I love you.
Before I end this sermon, I challenge you all to find ways to become leaders throughout camp in the short time we have left. This place offers a truly unique opportunity to do that. I can say with full confidence that each and every one of you can do great things here. Do not underestimate the impact you can make here, the littlest things can have the biggest impacts on the people around you.
I want to thank each and every one of you, for making this place as special as it is. From the youngest chip, to the oldest staffmen, you all make Kawaga, Kawaga. Do everything in your power to keep coming back year after year, as this place has so much to teach you. I promise you aren’t missing anything else at home. Make sure to get out there and be a leader today, be great.