From time to time, NJ Kids and Suburban Mom get the chance to talk in depth with one of our clients. Recently, we talked with Hal Pugach, Director of Camp Louemma. He gave us a look at this great camp, and his thoughts on why sleep away camp is such a wonderful opportunity for kids. We hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit about Camp Louemma as much as we did. Summer may seem a long time off, but now is definitely the time to find the best camp for your family.
Suburban Mom: What is your name and title?
Hal Pugach: My name is Hal Pugach and I am the Director of Camp Louemma
SM: What year was Camp Louemma was founded and by whom?
HP: Camp Louemma was founded in 1941 by a group of philanthropic women from Queens, New York and funded by The Miller Family and Queensboro Farm Dairies, the makers of Miller Cheese products. The original purpose of the camp was to allow children to escape from the city during the war years and experience summer in a country environment.
SM: Is the camp still run by the same family?
HP: The camp still has an active Board of Directors, however, the last original founding board member recently passed away. In 1996 my wife, Arlene, and I took over the day-to-day operations of Camp Louemma. Arlene was a camper there as a child and I met her there when we were teenagers, in the mid seventies. We have twin boys who both grew up at the camp and one recently married a girl that he met at Louemma 8 years ago.
SM: Why did you want to run a camp?
HP: We have a long history with Camp Louemma and a firm belief in the values and benefits that a sleep away camp experience offers children. This belief compelled us both to give up our former careers and devote our time and effort to ensuring wonderful and transformative summer experiences for our campers.
SM: Tell me a bit about Camp Louemma.
HP: Camp Louemma is located in Vernon, New Jersey and is a traditional, well-rounded co-ed sleep away camp for children ages 7-15. We have approximately 200 campers and a counselor/camper ratio of 1:5 so the camp is able to maintain an intimate, family oriented atmosphere where everyone knows each other and no child gets lost in the shuffle. The camp offers 2, three-week sessions and campers are invited to stay for one or both sessions. When compared to other sleep away camps and even day camps, Camp Louemma is an excellent value. In addition, we offer a variety of tuition incentives and, in some cases, scholarship assistance.
SM: Please describe the recreational facilities and activities.
HP: Camp Louemma is located on 152 scenic acres along the Appalachian Hiking trail. We offer a wide variety of facilities, programs and activities that are designed to meet the recreational needs of every camper. Following the “traditional” camp model, it offers a multitude of athletic programs along with aquatics at both a private lake and Olympic Size heated swimming pool, a Performing Arts/Theater program, fine arts center and Adventure activities such as Climbing Wall with zip line, cooking, archery, mountain biking and hiking. Each night there is a special event such as a Hawaiian luau, campfire, talent show, concert, etc. Out of camp trips include Mountain Creek Waterslide Park, Sussex County Fair, July 4th Fireworks display, Laser Tag, Hershey Park, white water rating, among others. We focus on the importance of sportsmanship, respect for others and help each camper gain self-confidence through trying new things in a supportive and encouraging environment.
SM: Tell me a little about the bunks and eating facilities.
HP: The campers sleep in cabins with approx 8-10 campers and 2-3 staff members. Each cabin has its own bathroom facilities as well as ceiling fans for comfort. They combine a unique blend of rustic flavor and modern convenience. Our nutritious meals are served family style and our menu is “kid friendly” and includes many dining favorites such as Pizza, Grilled Cheese, Hamburgers & Fries, BBQ Chicken, Spaghetti and Meatballs, a variety of Salads and much more. Additionally, there is an afternoon and/or evening canteen (snack time). Special dietary needs such as Kosher, Gluten Free, Allergy sensitivities, etc. can easily be accommodated.
SM: Why a sleep-away camp? What makes sleep-away camp special?
HP: Sleep away camp is far more than just a summer experience. It is an investment in a child. It is one of few, if any, opportunities that a child has to learn, grow and develop in an atmosphere that is different from their usual daily environment, devoid of technology and without parental control or influence. It allows for each child to learn responsibility by handling tasks that they might not be asked to do at home, e.g. making their bed, keeping their cabin clean. Each child becomes part of a team and learns the intricacies of group dynamics, and socialization. Without the ability to call home whenever a problem arises they learn to work out their issues by themselves or with the support of their camp peers or counselors/mentors. This, in turn, fosters friendships, strong bonds and meaningful relationships. It is no wonder that many adults still have “camp friends” that they’ve stayed close with their entire lives. The gaining of independence and self-sufficiency also helps build self-esteem and confidence that provides a strong foundation for adulthood. Sleep away camp is special in its ability to transform a child’s life. It is unique in that the transformation occurs in a non-threatening, welcoming manner which children view as just having fun.
SM: What is a sample day like at Camp Louemma?
HP: Wake up to a reveille bugle call starts the day at 7:45. There is a line up at the flagpole followed by breakfast. Campers then return to their cabins to take responsibility for making their beds, folding their clothes and helping to clean their cabin. The morning consists of two activity periods, which can be assigned or chosen (electives). The afternoon starts with lunch and then a ‘rest hour’, which campers can use for down time to read, write, letters home (yes letters, remember them?) broadcast at the camp radio station, write for the camp newsletter, practice for a sports team or rehearse for the camp play. There are three activity periods in the afternoon including a recreational swim period. Dinner is followed by a special evening activity with bedtime from 8:30-10 PM depending upon the age group. There are also a variety of special events and out of camp trips that occur throughout the stay.
SM: Do you have any programs for special needs children?
HP: While we are not a special needs camp our program can accommodate high functioning special needs campers.
SM: Can outsiders rent the facilities for meetings or groups?
HP: Yes, during our off-season from Mid May until mid June and again in September.
SM: If you could describe Camp Louemma in one word (or one sentence!) what would it be?
HP: A summer of fun and a lifetime of memories!
SM: Can potential campers schedule a tour of the camp and do you have any open house days?
HP: We schedule tours of the camp by request in the spring, fall and summer and will make a house visit to prospective camper families at any time. Simply call the camp office to arrange a date and time. Open houses take place in the spring and summer. For prospective young campers we also offer a “Try It First “ overnight during the summer.
43 Louemma Lane, Sussex, NJ 07461