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Monday, October 8, 2012

Meet a Chief's Knife Winner


Last week I caught up with Charlie Kashiwa, a long-time camper and counselor at Woodcraft. Charlie is a busy guy -- his job regularly takes him to Africa -- but he was happy to take some time out of his day to talk about Woodcraft. 

Charlie, on the far left, performs "The Terror O' Brian" skit at a campfire with a few other counselors.

AWC: How did you find out about Woodcraft?

CK: I was introduced to camp by my grandparents, long time residents of Old Forge.

Can you recall your very first day of camp? Do you remember being nervous? Excited?

I do remember my first day. I was too young to comprehend that I was going to be staying at a foreign place as we arrived in the Main Area, bumping along in my grandmother’s minivan. It was when it came time to say goodbye to my parents at the doors of the Outpost cabin that I realized I was there to stay. I was petrified . . . for about 5 minutes. Then the spirit of Woodcraft took its first hold on me. I knew I was in a special place about to embark on a summer of adventure!

You come from Colorado where there are plenty of outdoor sports opportunities. What kept you coming back to the Adirondacks even though the Rockies were right in your back yard?

There is no doubt that Colorado has an amazing landscape and offers bountiful opportunities to get out into the great outdoors, which I assure you do a lot of. Returning to Woodcraft for the summers began as a family tradition. It was not until the later years (Trail Camp and up) that I began to attend for the entire summer. I was a 3-week session attendee, which allowed me to maximize my outdoor time in Colorado as well as experience the Adirondacks.

Do you feel that Woodcraft impacted your transition to high school and college?

Camp provided me with tools, social and pragmatic, that still have value today. As for scholarly transitional phases, Woodcraft provided a foundation of confidence that helped navigate these normally turbulent times for adolescents. I knew that by participating enthusiastically with peers and teachers alike I could successfully manage my new surroundings. The notion of active and enthusiastic participation has been the greatest thing I have learned in my life, and that lesson came from years at Woodcraft.

How about your professional life? Can you see the influence of Woodcraft in your career?

Absolutely. That same foundation of engagement and participation has been the seed of my career path. I have the opportunity to learn new things every day through the engagement of colleagues and specialists with whom I interact.

You won the Chief’s Knife in 1998. Where is your knife right now?

It is sitting on a shelf of a bookcase in my living room. It has no display case or anything else to draw extra attention to it. For my friends it is just a knife. But if and when a fellow Woodcrafter visits my house, they would surely notice it, sparking conversation about camp.

Charlie and some friends from a 1997 Woodcraft newsletter.
The knife is a special award. It represents the appreciation of your peers as well as recognition from adults. Where do you rank it among your personal achievements?

To me the Chief’s Knife is something deeply personal. It stands for everything great about Woodcraft and I am still thrilled to have been given the honor of receiving it. It will always be the first award that really meant something to me, and in fact means something to that tight community.

Are there memories or people from Woodcraft that still stand out in your mind?

I don’t think there is enough space in this interview to name all of the people who stand out in my mind at Woodcraft. There are so many special people and memories, and I am so inundated with camp memories that I have dreams about the people and activities regularly!

Do you think you can name your first counselor and the other campers from your first cabin?

Chris with the long hair was the counselor. He did a Hans Solo light-saber re-enactment with a flashlight in the Outpost cabin that I still remember. Max Cunningham and I giggled tirelessly at this!

Where did you earn your degree? What line of work are you in these days?

I graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2006 with BS in Biology. I was very active on campus. I participated in track, cross-country, and lacrosse. I played in the orchestra and hosted a hip-hop radio program as well.

Today I am working as the Director of Operations for a company based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are involved in a variety of businesses ranging from the import and export of goods and logistics, to agriculture, minerals, hydrocarbons and construction materials. We were recently told by the Economic Advisor to the American Embassy that we are the 4th largest American company operating in the country.

Last question: can you still sing the alma mater?

I will never forget it!


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