Ty’s Take |The Heart of Kawaga

There’s so much to share from our first days of CK2021. Old friends reconnecting. New campers quickly belonging. Staff stepping up. Podding up. And, today, transitioning out of pods to fully open camp after receiving the “all clear” on our Covid tests! (Believe me, even after last year’s success and all our planning and protocols, we’re relieved and ever so grateful. This was an all-Kawaga effort. Thank you, parents, for keeping your boys safe and delivering them to us healthy!)

So, where to begin? Let me start by sharing a little story. One of our rookie campers, who was here with his dad for Father-Son Weekend, was determined to swim the bay. For those of you who know Kawaga, you understand the significance of this achievement. You prove to yourself that you can do it. And, once you do it, you become eligible to participate in all our amazing waterfront activities.

As we all know, just because you’re determined to do something doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. But determination just may be the best place to begin. So, this young camper, who so wanted to show his dad and prove to himself that he could do it, tried as hard as he could. He almost made it across. But, in the end, he felt the need to reach out to the counselor swimming alongside of him. Making that reach – holding onto to somebody else even for a short while – means you didn’t make it across all on your own. And that’s okay, as long as you try again. We believe it’s just fine to fail, as long as you tried your best, learned from the experience, and are ready to try again. The younger you are, of course, the more difficult it is to understand this. This camper was understandably upset. He took no solace in our telling him that he did well and that next time he just might make it across. So, I asked him for a favor: Would he let me accompany him across the bay the very next day? His eyes opened wide; his sadness was replaced by the same determination from the day before. He was ready. And, sure enough, the very next morning – to the cheering of sons and fathers on the shore – he made it across. He showed real heart. That’s the Kawaga Spirit. And, that’s what we’ve been witnessing our first days of this camping season.

Two nights ago, the Oneidas (our oldest campers) had a basketball game for the ages. Four-on four, under the lights, quadruple-overtime! The entire group was at the Arena Court, playing hard and cheering just as hard. I was there and, like all those around me, was immersed in just how hard these boys were playing. We typically cut off all outdoor activities at 8:50 for our “Call to Quarters.” But I let this one go. The players were showing grit. And all those who were watching them were having just as much fun. The intensity was off the charts! But, when the game ended and one team won, you could hardly tell who was on the winning side. These boys played so long and so hard. The Sportsmanship these boys displayed on Night One also showed their heart.

There’s just so much energy and exuberance here. I think the boys have been bottling it up over the past challenging school year. Yes, there’s still an adjustment period to camp, especially for the younger boys and for those who are here for their first year. So, they seem to be playing harder, laughing louder, and doing even more. The Enthusiasm is palpable.  As I mentioned, we had been in pods until this morning’s “all-clear.” Pods, as it turns out, have an unexpected benefit: By boys being in smaller groups, friendships form more quickly. The younger campers, in particular, have been more quickly finding their way, closely together with their cabinmates and counselors. And what do we see? Fellowship, which is the fourth of our four core values, together with Spirt, Sportsmanship, and Enthusiasm. They form the Heart of Kawaga.

Parents, as you’ve seen in the photos of camp, and as your sons discovered as soon as the buses pulled in on Monday, there’s perhaps more “new” at camp than ever before. We’ve had a wonderfully busy offseason adding boats, courts, a complete paddleball facility, trails, and other surprises. So, even for our older campers, there’s been an adjustment to that which is new at a place that’s been here for more than a century.

But, despite all the new, our beautiful (now three-year-old) Mess Hall, which in many ways is the Heart of camp, looks exactly the same. Newness is on the perimeter. The Heart of Kawaga remains front and center. Spirit. Sportsmanship. Enthusiasm. Fellowship.

Parents, you’d be so proud to see your sons up here. It’s been a long year. And, boy, were they ready for camp. Stay tuned for so much more!

Be Happy. Be Proud. Be Kawaga.