Max, a first-year Chip from Chicago, is mesmerized by Kawaga’s history. We keep all the old annual Pineneedles in Bide-a-wee, accessible to campers and counselors. Max has been here for only three weeks, and he’s asking to read the ’55 Pineneedle. Kawaga history is that rich and exciting.
I think the draw for so many of our boys is a sense of permanence that they don’t always find these days. It’s the idea and appreciation that this place has been around so long, with traditions that continue to evolve, based on a set of values that have guided us for 107 years.
We’ve been running Kawaga History Club for many years; but I don’t think it’s ever been as popular as it is now. We have updated the curriculum, with the help of two alumni from the ‘50s and ‘60s, Mike Grayson and Bob Sideman, together with two current staff members. These four individuals zoomed several times over the offseason to collaboratively build a more comprehensive curriculum, with the beginning of our story dating back to the late 1800s, even before Doc E found the 150 acres that became Camp Kawaga.
Mike even came up here during our first session to run Kawaga History Club. The boys were entranced; they want to know about what camp was like in the early days, including the evolution of Mawanda and Sachem, which we continue to evolve. They reveled in Mike’s stories about Doc E and Lou and Ron and Liz.
We review and revise our point system for achieving Mawanda and Sachem each summer, to assure that boys continue to be motivated to getting the most out of what we offer, including new experiences, activities, and challenges. As Lauren shared with you in her recent “Lauren’s Letter,” we’re seeing more boys going for Double Sachem.
Some of these campers are specifically motivated to give something permanent to Kawaga – so that their contributions will always be here. Their desire is linked to their fascination with and appreciation of our rich heritage. Two of these boys built an insanely cool kayak rack with 6 x 6 timbers. It’s now a permanent feature of camp. Two other campers built two fantastic flickerball hoops on D2. These are projects that were on our list to get done, and these older campers went about doing them aggressively. They see their time running out as campers and want to make a lasting impact by leaving a permanent reminder that they were here. They want to be able to walk the grounds in 20 years and know they are the ones who built these lasting fixtures, reminding them and others of their time here. I told them: “Whatever you do, somewhere in your project, burn in your name and the year.” Someday, they hope to show their gifts to camp to their own children.
So, yes, there’s this pull today to something not only permanent, but something that’s bigger than themselves. They see Kawaga as not only a place that has survived for more than a century, but one that continues to thrive, based on its foundation of guiding values and the beauty of the place itself. I think these boys are showing a coming of age in meaningful ways. They want to be a part of something lasting, to have a strong connection to a place whose story touches them deeply, and the opportunity to add to the Kawaga story.
Community is a central piece of what campers are feeling and looking for: something that connects one generation to the next. Just as we continue to innovate, we also celebrate our past. As the Kawaga Ideal reminds us: “Reach into the future, yet never forget the past.”
We’re excited that we will be opening the Kawaga History Museum by the summer of 2023. It’s a joint effort by our Alumni and staff. Let me share with you its mission statement: “The Kawaga History Museum will be the living embodiment of the Kawaga Ideal’s pledge to ‘never forget the past.’ Honoring Kawaga’s rich heritage, the museum will ‘reach into the future’ to inspire generations of campers, counselors, alumni, and families.”
And, of course, parents, we’re living through a unique time, adding to Kawaga’s history as we navigate today’s challenges while giving your boys the best summer ever.
Be Proud. Be Kawaga.