Meet our Summer 365 Camper of the Week Jessica Garmise! Get to know this former camper, mother of two, and creative superstar who undoubtedly honed her knack for the arts during her time at spent at sleepaway camp.
Where did you go to camp, how many years did you attend, how long was your camp session length?
I went to Long Lake Camp for the Arts for 6 summers. They had two 4-week sessions. My parents would always send me for the full 8 weeks.
Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Ardsley, a small town in Westchester, NY. I currently live in Port Washington, NY.
What are you currently doing (work, school, etc…please give us a description and include any website links)?
A few years ago, I launched my own creative business called Out of the Box Creations (www.outoftheboxshop.com). We specialize in custom handmade gifts as well as creative event décor. The tagline for our gift business is “the prefect gift for the person that has everything!” On the Events side, we offer innovative event décor and graphic design services for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet 16s and other similar events. Basically, if you have a creative idea, we can help you bring it to life!
How has camp influenced what you do/your career path?
Long Lake was a place that allowed campers to experience so many different types of creative expression such as theater, music, dance and the fine arts. And since it was a free choice camp, you could spend every day at camp doing the things you loved best. I spent a lot of time in the various fine arts studios doing things like making jewelry, printing stationary, tie-dying t-shirts, sewing and more. The experiences that I had at Long Lake definitely helped shape me as an adult and inspired me to start my own creative business doing what I love.
What are your top three essentials that you packed in your trunk?
Elaborate collage with photos of friends and teen idols to hang next to my bed
A fancy outfit for “Mintons” (This was the name of the fancy night club that the dining hall was turned into once every summer.)
What are three words to describe your camp experience?
Soooooo much fun!
Who was someone at camp that you looked up to?
Each summer, I was amazed by how talented some of the other campers were, particularly in the theatre program. It did not surprise me that some of my friends at camp went on to have successful careers in TV and film, both in front of and behind the camera.
Why do you think it is important to go to camp?
Being away from home for the summer helps kids build character and learn independence. It gives kids the opportunity to be part of a community where they take care of themselves and work things out on their own. And for the current generation of campers, I think one of the most important things about camp is that it gives them the chance to “unplug” from technology for 7 whole weeks and enjoy socializing with one another in a more traditional sense.
What is your favorite/most epic camp memory?
On the last night of camp each year, we would all walk down to the lake with candles and then let them float off into the water. It was a stunning sight and there wasn’t a dry eye to be found.
Words of wisdom for current and future campers?
Don’t be afraid to try new things at camp. That’s what the camp experience is all about.
What is your favorite camp tradition?
My favorite Long Lake tradition was “Peanut Pal Week”. This was kind of like a week-long game of Secret Santa for the entire camp. You would receive a peanut and inside the peanut was the name of another camper or counselor. For a week, you had to secretly give your Peanut Pal notes and presents. To this day, I still wonder how they got the names of all campers inside those little peanuts!
What was your favorite camp food?
We always had a yummy breakfast on Sunday. Following breakfast, the entire camp would then head up to the sports fields for “Sports Sunday”. Occasionally, we would play tennis or soccer, but most Sundays we would listen to music, write letters and just relax on the lawn with our friends.
What did you prefer – pool or lake?
Lake. We didn’t have a pool at Long Lake. But I was always terrified of the muck on the bottom.
Favorite canteen candy?
What was your favorite camp activity?
We had an amazing film studio at Long Lake that was run by a good friend of mine. Every summer I would have so much fun producing short films and music videos with my friends. I recently found a bunch of VHS tapes and converted them to digital format. Watching those videos again brought back such great memories and was a reminder of how special camp was.
What is your favorite camp word/expression?
The boys’ cabins at Long Lake were called Herms, which I believe is short for Hermitage. To this day, I’m not really sure what a hermitage is and why they were called that.
Favorite camp memento?
I still have some old camp yearbooks. I think I may also have some bus notes hidden somewhere. Those would be great to find today.
Any firsts at camp (i.e. waterskiing, kiss, archery, trying a new food, performing on stage)?
I learned how to waterski and tried horseback riding for the first time. I also was lead singer in a heavy metal band one summer. THAT was something I never thought I would do.
With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day coming up, we would love to highlight Out of the Box’s amazing personalized gifts for those holidays that are great for families with young kids. Those products can be viewed and purchased directly on their website.