Ty’s Take

Hello Kawaga Families,

You probably know the names “Mawanda” and “Sachem.” These are special honors that Kawaga campers strive to achieve each year, first Mawanda and then — each following summer — Sachem.

As your boys may have told you, we’ve overhauled the program this summer. And, by “overhaul,” we’ve made achieving these honors both more challenging and more meaningful.

We asked ourselves what we’re teaching if we make achieving Mawanda and Sachem too easy. What values are we instilling? What lessons about goals are campers learning if they’re not being pushed to work hard and strive to reach a higher bar?   

Second, we want to make sure that campers are fulfilling the requirements in a way that’s consistent with our overarching values of Enthusiasm and Sportsmanship. It’s one thing to jump over a hurdle; it’s quite another to do so in a way that’s fun, genuine, and makes you proud.

When it comes to earning points — which is the basis for “making” Mawanda and Sachem — we also want to encourage boys to participate in activities and learn skills that are different than those they participate in and learn at home. So, instead of juggling a soccer ball or shooting a free throw (both of which are great but boys can do at home), we’re encouraging campers to stretch in new ways and, by doing so, to enjoy new experiences and learn new life skills along the way.

Really, until this summer, aside from tripping, canoeing was not a part of our regular program despite camp being surrounded on three slides by beautiful, blue lakes. Now, boys are having fun canoeing again, learning new skills that will bode well for them in summers to come. For example, a new Sachem “contract” is to canoe from the Wharf (our dock across from Porcupine) to Miracle (our main ski dock) in a certain amount of time.

Other boys are running 5Ks together with counselors (who are doing it every morning). We’re also swimming more! We have campers swim the width of our Beginners Tank to establish a baseline time. By improving their time, they earn points.

And, in one of the most surprisingly popular Sachem tasks, boys are given 25 minutes to build a campfire that must burn a rope that is suspended four feet over the fire! Granted, campers get only two points for successfully doing this, but those two points can really matter. Case in point: One of our campers got his rope burning in 24:32. And, those the two points (with only 28 seconds to go) were exactly what he needed to make Sachem!

When we explained to the boys how we were changing Mawanda and Sachem, they admittedly weren’t excited, but they understood. So, we had immediate “buy-in,” showing that our boys know that these honors shouldn’t be easy to achieve  – that they’ll be that much more meaningful and fulfilling with these changes. So, the 

reaction — in typical Kawaga fashion — was not to pull back, but to push forward. Let’s find our path — what we need to accomplish — to achieve our goal!

Just this morning, 12 guys were on the lake, with counselors, before Reveille to fulfill their canoeing contract. And, they got another chance after breakfast, when one of counselors announced in the Mess Hall that he’d take out another group. He was quickly surrounded by campers wanting in! Now our boys are really learning how to canoe… and loving being on the water, enjoying all these activities.

A few eight-weekers strive to make Double Sachem each summer. It’s a rare achievement. Last night, four of these boys took their “outdoor proficiency test,” sleeping in the woods (counselors within hearing/shouting distance!), pitching their own tents, building a campfire with only three matches (!), and cooking breakfast. Two got their fires going!

Parents, I’m pleased to say that your boys have really stepped up this summer. The staff, Lauren and I couldn’t be prouder. When boys are trying to get those last few points, though the tasks may be small, the level of achievement is profound. And, the pride they show is contagious.

“Not in the paths of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenges. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.”

Be Kawaga!