Ty’s Take | Keep Shining, Kawaga

Late Wednesday night, I was working with senior staff on planning the upcoming all-night treasure hunt. The sky looked like a planetarium. The stars were out of control. We get so many compliments about Kawaga being a beautiful camp. And, of course, we agree. But, there’s a beauty that transcends even what most people see beyond the spectacular views from the Mess Hall, driving into camp on Kawaga Road, and walking down to our docks.

Kawaga at night is awe-inspiring. As you’ve been reading, we have many special activities and events at camp that the kids love and remember. But, asked to name their most vivid memories from their summers on The Shores, Kawaga campers from generation to generation often say the same thing. It’s the sky at night.

There’s the mystique of Kawaga’s famed tapping ceremony under the stars, when a single canoe paddles toward Diamond One as we’re are lined up facing the lake under the magic of the stars and sky.

But just as strongly, campers remember their counselors waking them up late at night and sneaking them out of their cabins to view the spectacle of our Kawaga sky. It’s as strong and lasting a memory as playing Menominee, the Spectacular, Swimming the Bay, or even Banquet night.

One of the benefits of our days already getting noticeably shorter is the stars are coming out earlier. I hope you read Joey Schrayer’s sermon about his connection with nature, which was born at Kawaga. That’s a link that many of us share. In fact, two nights ago, after an action-packed long, fun, and exhausting day, I snuck away by myself to lay on the Omni for a full 20 minutes and take in the wonder. I felt grateful, peaceful, and inspired.

Our boys actually talk about this beauty, too. Most of them, from urban and suburban areas across the country, have never seen a sky both so black and so lit up.

The final event of the Kawaga Spectacular is “songs and skits.” This year they were outrageously great — the best ever — as boys were practicing well into the evening. Lauren and I were walking around camp one night last week enjoying a perfect sky, as the older campers were with working their coaches on finalizing their skits.

I couldn’t help but to go into the Rec Hall and ask everybody to come on outside. We turned off the Mess Hall lights to reveal the sky. Yes, we interrupted their final practice. But, without hesitation, they hustled down to the Omni and laid down together on their backs, looking up and taking in the beauty. Some were pointing out constellations. One boy showed his friends Mars (it wasn’t, but it still felt great). And, they all could see the Big Dipper, from which they were able to trace the North Star.

We only took 10 minutes out of their practice. But, my guess is this is a moment they’ll all remember. Unscripted, unique, profound. In many ways, like this summer.

Clearly, this summer we’ve been focused day in, day out, all-day long on health and safety. And, of course, health and safety have always been our priority. But our North Star transcends even these mandates. Let me share.

What we discuss over and over in pre-camp training is that we’re about making kids feel really good about themselves. We use the analogy that a camper’s self-esteem is like a bank account. We keep making deposits in it, investing in it, day after day. The returns from this summer will be those of a lifetime of memories and lessons. The darkest nights produce the brightest stars. Keep shining, Kawaga.