Ty’s Take | “Our Values Are on Full Display”

I’m still thinking about what I saw earlier this week. It happened before breakfast, when not too much happens, other than counselors getting their campers going in the morning (okay, and sometimes it’s the other way around!).

But two days ago, something so Kawaga happened. And, I was lucky enough to be out and about with a front-row seat.

As many of you might know, a right of passage at Kawaga is swimming the bay. Once a camper accomplishes this feat, the waterfront opens up to him: skiing, sailing, tubing, paddleboarding, you name it! The camper swims across the bay with a lifeguard and his camp big brother, followed closely by another counselor in a boat. On the other side of the bay, he victoriously grabs a rock and brings it back in the boat. When he gets back on the Shores, he rings the bell at the bay for the whole camp to hear. His name is announced in the Mess Hall, and he receives his canoe paddle.

Some of our first-year campers swim the bay with their dads during Father-Son Weekend. Others make the swim during the first few days of camp… or the first few weeks. For others, it’s tougher. Some alumni have told me that it was the toughest thing they ever did at camp and almost all have vivid memories about it.

So, on Tuesday, one of our 10-year-old boys, a member of our Sioux group, showed incredible grit and determination. It wasn’t easy for him, which made it that much more special. This was his third attempt. And, right before breakfast with his big brother, cabin counselor, and lifeguard, he went for it. Even after the five-minute bell rang (signaling all to report to the Mess Hall), he swam on. His cabin mates stayed near the dock waiting their friend’s return.

Sure enough, he got across the bay, and his smiled lit up the sky. From my vantage point in the guide boat (yep, when I heard what was being planned, I couldn’t resist), I saw his entire cabin cheering him on — loudly, enthusiastically, with huge smiles and unwavering support. All of these boys had already made it across the bay, and they knew how much he wanted to as well. They knew he could but also understood he needed some confidence-building support that only they could provide.

Over the last few days, other first-year campers made multiple attempts to get across the bay. Again, there’s no shortage of grit and determination among Kawaga campers. As of lunch today, I am proud to report that every single camper has now made it across the bay!

What a morning at Camp Kawaga. And what a sense of accomplishment these boys are reveling in. Our key values of Spirit, Enthusiasm, Sportsmanship, and Fellowship are proudly on full display.

Be Kawaga,