“Uncle Don” Kennedy founded Camp Kieve on the pristine shores of Damariscotta Lake in 1926. Since then, Kieve has evolved from a small summer camp for boys into a wide reaching, year-round educational organization now known as Kieve Wavus Education, Inc.

Long before the two camps merged in 2005, the Wavus Camps began in 1922 and shared many of the same ideals as Kieve.  In 1981, Dick Kennedy started The Leadership School (then Leadership Decisions Institute) in order to help kids from Maine make positive decisions to impact their futures.  Today, Kieve Wavus Education has programming over 300 days each year, reaching more than 10,000 people annually.

KIEVE (kee-ave')

A Celtic verb which means to strive in emulation of – to work hard to acquire skills, knowledge, and attitudes from others so as to improve yourself.

Uncle Don Kennedy was a schoolteacher in Philadelphia when he first opened Kieve.  He created a summer camp with few rules balanced by many understanding counselors and a program that minimized competition between individuals.  Instead, Kennedy encouraged campers to set and surpass personal goals.  This remains as true today as it was in 1926.

Kieve remained under the ownership of the Kennedy family until 1974 when it became a non-profit educational organization governed by a Board of Trustees.  The current President & Chief Executive Officer of Kieve Wavus Education, Sam Kennedy, is the great-grandson of the founder. 

Wavus (wă-vus)

A revered Native American chief who, with his people, inhabited the Point on Damariscotta Lake long ago.

The Wavus Camps operated as a brother/sister camp, Wawanock for Girls and Damariscotta Camp for Boys, from 1922 to 1976 under the leadership of the Andrews and Westerman families.  After private purchase and sixteen dormant years, the 95-acre property was threatened with sale for development.  A group of loyal alumni campers and local conservationists formed The Wavus Foundation and the grassroots efforts of this team led to protection of the land and rekindled programs based on Wavus traditions.

A merger with Kieve Affective Education in July 2005 led to the renaming of the growing non-profit — Kieve Wavus Education, Inc. The summer of 2006 brought new life and 200 girls to Wavus as the property opened its next chapter as Wavus Camp for Girls. Wavus continues to be a place where girls are able to be their true selves, learning self-reliance and teamwork, as well as the many skills required for adventures in the wilderness, becoming stronger and more confident leaders as a result.

The Leadership School

In 1981, in response to rising teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol use rates, Dick Kennedy founded Leadership Decisions Institute (LDI) on the simple truth that all young people are ‘at promise’. Rather than focusing on the external factors that make a student ‘at risk’ – economic challenges, familial job insecurity, etc. – LDI focused on supporting and amplifying the internal assets that give all students possibility and potential.

Initially, Dick teamed up with Bates College students to help empower young people and the adults who affect them to contribute positively to society by providing a wide range of experiential educational opportunities that: encourage responsible decision making, focus on ways to build and maintain healthy relationships, broaden and raise aspirations and improve social competencies.

Over the years the LDI program continued to evolve: working with schools beyond the Kieve campus as far south as Massachusetts (1990’s) and as far north as Fort Kent, Maine. LDI became The Leadership School (2006), the Educator in Residence program (2013) was instituted, and when Kindness and Respect (2020) was published, EASEL was established to formalize our professional development for educators. Regardless of the changes, the mission of the Leadership School remains the same which is to empower young people and the adults who affect them to contribute positively to society.