Ty’s Take | Disconnecting and Reconnecting

So, let’s take a well-deserved collective sigh of relief. Parents: we’re off to a great start!

Your boys are happy, healthy, and beaming. They’re also probably a little sore, as they’ve been playing and competing hard, which they’re only starting to get used to.

They’re also breathing their own sigh of relief.

No question, some arrived here with a bit of anxiety. Those who are first-year campers always do. Those who’ve been here for several summers were concerned about how camp might be different this year and how that difference might get in the way. So, I’m happy to tell you that, despite these differences our protocols make necessary, camp feels normal. It feels healthy, relaxing, and right.

Here’s something surprising that helps to paint a picture for you: We’re experiencing very little homesickness. We had pre-camp training sessions with a pediatric licensed clinical social worker, who prepared us not only for homesick campers but any signs of social-emotional stress or anxiety. So far, there’s been very little. We’re monitoring all this very closely. But, this pleasant surprise reflects just how calming and peaceful being up here is for the boys.

It just feels so good to be at camp. No screens. No worries. Just friendship, enthusiasm, fun, and very warm weather in our amazing setting.

I’m pleased and proud of our boys and our staff. Yes, the first day was challenging. I met with all the cohort leaders at a safe distance. The admin team, our nurses, and our cooks all wear masks because we intersect with all the cohorts. It’s funny what you can get used to.

I asked our staff, who — like so many of us — have been glued to their phones for the last 10 months if they miss their devices. They essentially laughed off the suggestion. They’re locked into being here in our bubble. What they’re giving to our kids, they’re receiving back in multiples. Smiles, laughter, fun, and, of course, quiet special times together. It just feels so good to be all together on The Shores. And, it’s all just beginning.

Despite the necessary restrictions, counselors have more autonomy in programming than ever before. You know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention. Our staff anticipates what their campers want and need and are responding with energy and creativity to make their mark on the summer. The boys are in lockstep, taking their counselors’ cues. It’s truly inspiring.

It has been wicked hot up here. Being on a peninsula with a mile of shoreline is really a blessing. The boys have been in the water pretty much nonstop. Because of our staggered departure times, buses arrived at camp earlier than ever before, beginning at 12:15. The boys just loved that first day. Chilling with their friends. Jumping into the lake both at Miracle Dock (yes, alumni, this is something we weren’t allowed to do!) and at the T-Dock, which is our main swimming area.

As you might know, paddle-boating has become super popular. This year we added an 18-foot paddleboat to our fleet, aptly named The Beast! Seven boys can ride it together. Talk about fun and friendship in the water.

We’ve already had 34 new bay swimmers, with only one more to go. And, have no doubt: he will. And, when he rings that bell, it will reverberate around camp, and he’ll be cheered wildly. Physical distance is no barrier to enthusiasm. Speaking of which, yesterday we had four consecutive “miracles” at the docks — that’s four boys getting up on skis for the first time.

We’ve been eating all meals outdoors. We’ve been lucky with the weather; even Monday, when it looked like rain, the weather cooperated to allow us to be outdoors all day long. Each cohort has its own eating spot. But, everybody can pretty much see everybody! We’re still singing and cheering. It’s not quite the same as in the Mess Hall. But, it feels so good.

Yes, the cohort thing is a bit weird. And, we’re hopeful it’s only temporary. But, the transition and intersection points — when cohorts come near each other — are so interesting. The older campers yield to the younger ones. And, everybody’s traveling in large groups. As the African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. And, if want to go far, go together.” Friendships are accelerating. The cohorts are tight. These boys are going far together. And, we’re only starting to get a sense of the life lessons they’ll take with them from this summer.

Brothers are still seeing brothers, and cousins are seeing cousins. Sometimes, we set up these meetings by creating time for them. But, at other times, they happen organically. The boys stand 12 feet apart so they can visit. It’s a bit different. But, it’s still good.

One thing that is different, of course, is our health protocol. We’ve essentially made Crows Nest, our infirmary, off limits. Instead, our nurses have become a mobile unit, each visiting their assigned cohorts. Steph, Taylor, and Cassidy are nothing short of remarkable. How fortunate are we to have these three professionals. So far, we’ve had no fevers or any other Covid-type symptoms. Our daily screenings are going smoothly and easily.

So, yes, the boys are decompressing from the past many weeks. But, they’re also disconnecting and re-connecting. They’re disconnected from their devices, from the news, and — for six weeks — from the pressures and the stress of learning to live in the midst of a global pandemic. And, they’re reconnecting with each other, with the great outdoors, with the Kawaga Spirit, and what life can and should be like for kids.

Be Happy. Be Brave. Be Kawaga.