Shabbat Shalom. I hope that by this point you know who I am, but just in case, my name is Tucker Froelich and this is my 11th year at Kawaga. When I sat down to write this, millions of memories flooded into mind. I could talk about 7-year old-Tucker, who came to Kawaga knowing only his older cousin, and is still here 11 years later with countless friends who have become family that I lean on. I could talk about all the beautiful people that I have met throughout the years and how they have shaped me to be who I am today. I could talk about getting my two ski miracles, memories of the waterfront, senior ball, blue/gold. Trust me: I could go on for ages. But, just like everyone who has stood here before me, I will attempt to put what Kawaga means to me into words. Whenever I get deep in thought about camp, I start to tear up, but good tears. There are the tears of joy after winning your first Spectacular and sitting in the Council Ring with your team. And, there are tears of sadness at Banquet Night, realizing that we have 10 months until we’re back at Camp together again. I remember tears of homesickness on the bus up to camp, and tears of appreciation on the way back home, because I loved camp so much and didn’t want to leave (shoutout Zach Cohen).
And then there are those tears that you will never, ever forget. It was a hot day in the summer of 2016, my CIT year. The counselors were playing Menominee in staff softball that night, so they asked the Seniors to help them warm up during Rest Hour. I ran back to the cabin from lunch, changed into sweat pants, grabbed a hat and cleats, and made my way to D1 as I heard my name on the PA: “Tucker Froelich, please come to the Pineneedle Office… Tucker Froelich to the Pineneedle.” I thought, “What could possibly be this important right now? I’m just trying to go play some softball.”
I walked into the ‘Needle and Dewey Abrams told me my mom was on the phone waiting for me. That’s when I knew something was up. The entire year my age group had been riddled with sadness and sorrow, from Ethan’s grandma passing away, to someone losing a close friend from home to an overdose. So, was this the next straw? When I got on the phone, my mom sounded happy, asking me how Camp was and what I’ve been doing, but her voice was shaky. After she made some small talk, she told me: my aunt had been re-diagnosed with cancer. She had been in remission for several months, so this all came out of the blue. There I was: was running to D1 with no worries in the world, and then everything turned upside down. That’s the world for you. I sat by the phone for a few minutes, crying, wondering, “Why Amy? Why my family?” I then gathered myself and went to play some ball. I ran to left field, ready to take my first step back and catch some balls, all while crying my eyes out. When we went in to bat, Sam Karmin looked right at me, pulled me aside, and started talking to me right away. He is very good friends with my aunt’s daughter, so he knew her well. I told him the whole situation — that Aunt Amy’s cancer had returned, and I have no idea what the future held for her. Sam and I sat and cried together until I went back onto the field.
Where else can you be given the worst possible news, and then go play softball with your best friends? There is something special about the people here; I have started to think that someone puts something in the water to make us better people. Kawaga breeds not good, but great, people. When you walk around camp, it’s impossible to find someone who doesn’t care about you and your well being. We all respect and understand what others are going through, and we all try to find how we can help.
Think back to a camp memory of yours, good or bad. That, right there, is what Kawaga is about. Within seconds, you have memories to look back on, experiences to cherish for a lifetime, all because of this little peninsula in Wisconsin and the people with whom we share our second home.
I could have talked about throwing Ethan tennis balls while he jumped off the high dive. I could have talked about beating Ojibwa 41-40 in football my CIT year, or how you all will be whooping them on Monday. I decided to go the other direction and share a sad memory. Yet, it’s all these memories that truly shape us. As great are the times that we have here, we learn from and even need moments like mine to mold us into a Kawaga Brave. “Here, let him learn to stand up in the storm.”