Dear Kawaga Family,
A big part of what we feel and model each day at camp is that we’re a close, loving community. We think of that community as being Kawaga, a day’s drive from where many of our campers live.
What happened earlier this week reminds us that – despite our seemingly protective bubble here – we’re not always isolated. Our community, of course, includes our offseason home.
Nobody thinks this type of tragedy will happen in their hometown. But this time it did. Highland Park is home to so many of you and so many of us – families, extended families, friends, and neighbors.
When we train for emergencies and crises, we think of when not if. We need to be as prepared as we can be. The world has changed and our preparation has expanded to encompass such horrific events, which were previously unthinkable. We’ve been fortunate to be able to pull on so many expert and caring resources during this time. As I wrote to you earlier this week, where our young boys have taken this all in stride and have asked few questions, our older guys – and particularly some of our counselors – are struggling in processing what’s happened. Within an hour of learning the news, we had these counselors meeting virtually with our on-call psychologists. A pediatric psychological practice is providing further direction for us as we prepare to welcome our second-session campers, who were home during the 4th of July.
Yes, we’re in an amazing bubble here. If you walked into camp right now, it would seem so normal, so calming, so much like Kawaga has always felt. Our youngest campers quickly moved on from Lauren’s and my sharing of the news with them, knowing only that there was an incident that seemed far away. Our older campers are finding comfort in being together, within our activities, their cabin groups, and our tight camp community. We’ve always taken great pride in teaching life skills and reinforcing – and discussing – human values at camp. The Kawaga Ideal is forever relevant and timeless.
Yes, some of our counselors are torn – they felt a pull to be home after learning the news. But, they’re relieved and proud to be at camp with a purpose – to be here for our campers and for each other. When bad things happen, you want to be with your immediate family. That’s hard right now, because so many of our families live in or near Highland Park. But, these same counselors are finding strength in their camp family and clearly benefiting from the wonderful distraction of being at camp.
Age has played a huge role in processing this event. One of our 12-year-olds was taking the news particularly hard; although he didn’t know anybody who was directly impacted, Highland Park is his home. We made sure counselors were always with him. And, he’s already doing much better. Everybody reacts differently. We’re meeting our campers and our staff where they are (their heads, their hearts) — wherever that may be.
Lauren and I are so touched by how many of you have reached out. Your overriding message: how thankful you are that your sons are at Kawaga, their home-away-from-home, during this time.
So, all things considered in the wake of this enormous tragedy, we feel fortunate. What happened didn’t just hit close to home. It hit home. And, Kawaga being your boys’ second home has taken on more importance than ever.
Let me close with a Kawaga insight I’ve shared before but has taken on greater meaning this week. Camp days are long, but the weeks are all too fast. Each day feels like a week in the “real world.” We wait 10 months for camp to start. Then, when it does, we pack in so much during our 16 waking hours that by the end of each day, you can’t believe that what happened this morning was, well, today. Monday was one of those days.
Be Strong. Be Together. Be Kawaga.