I am excited to feature a Kanakuk alumnus each month here on our Kanakuk Kampfire blog. I think it will be fun for us to read about our friends and reconnect with our cabin mates in the world in which they live via old Kamp memories. I’ve been struggling writing this post because I am still not sure the direction I want to take the Featured Alumni section of the blog. Do I want to feature “Where are you now,” or do I want to feature the way you all remember Kanakuk? The jury is still out on where I want this to go, but with this alumnus, for today, I’m going to hit on a little of both. I would love to hear what you all would like this Featured Alumni section to ultimately be.

So, today I want to reintroduce you all to Renie Anderson. Renie was a ten year Kamper at K-1 and K-2 and then she was on staff at K-1. She is now the mother of two K-1 Kampers who seem to love Kanakuk just as much as she did at their age.

Googling Renie was so much fun! In 2019 she was named one of “The Most Powerful Women In Sports,” and she is blazing trails in professional sports as she was promoted to the first-ever chief revenue officer of the NFL. She has been with the NFL for 14 years, and her favorite part about working for them is that she is working for a company that inspires and unifies people.  Renie sees the unique opportunity she has, through football, to bring individuals together. She told me that it is so cool to be part of a corporation that represents some pretty great men who are actively changing communities for the better. You’ve seen Renie’s work, without knowing it, because she is in charge of all incoming revenue at the NFL; that means that anything with the NFL logo on it or any advertising in association with the NFL has been “touched” by her. (How did I miss that major in college?)

Beyond her unbelievable work with the NFL, Renie is a Kanakuk Alumni and a Kanakuk Parent.  Renie came to K-1 from a city that wasn’t a big Kanakuk “hub.” She came every summer by herself and would get chills as she drove down Lakeshore Drive getting closer and closer to the K-1 gates. Unlike me, she LOVED being the first Kamper to arrive at Kamp and then enjoyed every day for the next 26 days. She and her husband are now sending both of their daughters from a community that doesn’t know about Kanakuk, and they told her this summer that they get those same chills on Lakeshore Drive after traveling from the Northeast.

Renie started her Kanakuk journey in Cabin 3 at K-1 in 1983; Cabin 3 was the same cabin in which her mom was a counselor many summers before. She proudly signed the cabin wall under her mom’s signature and has a picture of those side-by-side signatures to remember her Kanakuk legacy. Renie was both the Kickapoo Mini Princess at K-1 and then returned in 1992 as the Kickapoo Princess. K-1 has always held the most special place in her heart. I never went to Kamp in the same term as Renie, but our paths were parallel throughout our journeys. Her memories echo my own with the excitement of the swim and track meets and the excitement and activity around K-Work! She laughed about rain coming into their tent on a trip and looked back on the K-1 canoe trip with warm nostalgia. When she got her gold cross with tennis shoes, it was a major “mic drop” moment for her.  

More than the activities and Super Deal trips and awards were the people. Margaret Shurmyer was her first and favorite counselor. She is still friends today with some of her cabinmates and some of the people she worked with. She said, “the people are the main thing,” as she reflected on her years at K-1 and K-2. She loved how Kanakuk was, and is, a place where everyone is accepted and encouraged, and she loved how Kamp seemed to bring out the best in people.  She told me that, “there isn’t any other place on the planet that can weave in all of the messaging and the life of Christ (and Christianity) in a way that is natural and not forced.” She left Kamp wanting to be a good example and excited about her faith.

I loved when Renie told me that the gift of Kanakuk is better than any gift Santa could bring her girls and that she knows that, as a parent, she can use all the help she can get and Kanakuk is some of the best help. She cherishes the faith piece of Kamp for herself and now for her girls as it is a part of the Kanakuk “cadence each day, from wake up to TAPS.”

Kamp taught Renie the independence that has followed her all the way to the NFL. It gave her the foundation for her faith, and it helped her understand her responsibility as a Christian and how to serve others and grow spiritually. Whether that was because she went to Kamp with no friends from home, because she learned that dressing up in a banana costume was a great idea for no reason at all or because she was honored with leadership roles starting at the age of 13, she said that the independence she learned at Kanakuk gave her the confidence to be who she is today. Renie is a humble leader who is filled with thoughtfulness and vision, and who is continuing the Kanakuk generation as she sends the third generation of Anderson girls through the gates of Kanakuk (Kanakomo) summer after summer.

Thanks, Renie, for your time and for your friendship. You’re a rock star!

Jamie Jo Braner, Director of Alumni Engagement

Alumni Spotlight