Ty’s Take | “Inspired by Campers’ Reflections”

There are countless ways to appreciate what we witness at Kawaga every day. But today I want to share with you just two. As much as we love to see campers having all-out fun with their buddies, achieving goals, and learning new skills, there’s something special about seeing young boys open their eyes and hearts to new perspectives and ideas. Parents, your sons are growing at Camp Kawaga in such important ways. Let me share…

As most of you know, our guiding values come from a beautiful passage called The Kawaga Ideal. It’s a father’s prayer for his son, which Doc E, our founder, brought to camp. It’s what every camper memorizes. And, it’s what every Kawaga alum not only knows by heart, but holds close to his heart. The Ideal’s life-shaping words have guided thousands who have spent a summer on the Shores. It’s the cornerstone of what we do, what we believe, and what we teach.  

Each summer, we encourage campers to take the time to reflect upon one paragraph — or even one line — from The Ideal and write about what it means to them. We call their writings “Ideal Reflections.” So, we have handwritten pages of each boy’s thoughts. Talk about amazing, inspiring reads! They provide a special lens through which to see what our campers are thinking, feeling, and learning. 

One boy chose to reflect about this line from the Ideal: “…be proud and unbending in defeat, yet humble and gentle in victory.” He wrote that he made it his goal to live up to this line. He explained that one summer he was fortunate to be on the winning Kawaga Spectacular team, yet he recognized that even though he was thrilled to have won, he knew that those who didn’t win were disappointed in defeat. He showed sensitivity and humility upon returning to his cabin to be with boys who didn’t win. He then wrote that this summer his team has not won a single game and that he recognizes how fine a line it is between winning and losing. So, he has found comfort and meaning in The Ideal. This is the awareness and respectfulness that we strive for at Kawaga. This is what it means to “Be Kawaga”! 

Another camper reflected that Kawaga is a place to “…learn to stand up in the storm.” He wrote that he needed to have oral surgery over the winter during which he had eight teeth extracted. He wrote how The Ideal helped him find the strength within himself: “I was afraid about the procedure, but I decided to be brave and get it over with because I know in the future, it will all be worth it. This shows that no matter the size and darkness of the ‘storm,’ you can get through it and learn that you are much stronger than you think.”  

This same boy explained that he found meaning he acted upon in the Ideal line: “learn compassion for those who fail.” He wrote about a time at camp when he was 11 and his friend was upset about playing poorly in a game. He knew he needed to go help his friend. After a long conversation, he explained that his friend felt a lot better, putting into perspective what was only a game and instead being excited for the next one and finding comfort in real friendship. And, the boy who wrote this said he learned quite a lesson: understanding a friend’s emotions and experiencing the joy in helping his friend feel better.  

The empathy and kindness shown in these two reflections, written by a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old, are on display every day at Kawaga. Yet, to read about such deep feelings, written by young boys in their own words and inspired by what they do and learn at Kawaga, brings all of us here such awe and pride. 

Our values are as relevant today as ever. Going on 105 years, Kawaga continues to be a place where boys find and learn about themselves as they create friendships and memories to last a lifetime.

“A son who will know that to know himself is the
foundation stone\of all true knowledge.”

— The Kawaga Ideal

Be Kawaga,