The Truth About Sleep Away Camp by Kimberly Sabatini

Truth: Growing up I desperately wanted to go to sleep away camp.

Truth: I had a deep seated feeling that my life would change if I only went away to sleep away camp.

Truth: I suspected that at sleep away camp I would be able to reinvent myself.

Truth: I figured I'd meet at least one awesome new friend at sleep away camp.

Truth: I knew love would find me at sleep away camp because it just wasn't happening in my sleep here life.

Truth: My parents couldn't afford sleep away camp.

Truth: I resigned myself to longingly reading books about sleep away camps that were filled with high jinx, friends and romance.

Truth: The summer before my senior year I was chosen to go to NLC (A National Leadership Conference) along with seven other kids from my high school. NLC was located at a camp right in my hometown, but kids from NYC and Minnesota would be coming in for the ten day event and I was going to be there for ten whole days. In essence--it was SLEEP AWAY CAMP!

Truth: Sleep away camp was everything I suspected it would be.

I don't have a lot of pics from NLC. I didn't take many and back in the day things depended on good old fashioned film. Cell phones and selfies hadn't been invented yet. My parents didn't even own a cordless phone, a microwave or a VCR at that point. So, lets just say I'm lucky to even have these few pics. And maybe that's not a bad thing considering my very permed 80's hair. LOL! But I don't need pics to remember it all clearly. It's stuck with me. This is what happened at sleep away camp...

Truth: My life completely changed by going to NLC. I got a glimpse being able to reinvent myself and an appreciation for who I already was as viewed through the eyes of strangers. It left me me with the desire to fight even harder for scholarships to go away to college. I felt vibrant and very confident at NLC, in a way I'd never felt before and I still pull from that experience to this day.

Truth: I met lots of awesome friends at NLC. Some I'm still friends with today. I made friends from NYC and Minnesota. I made friends with the amazing counselors. But the biggest surprise was that I built an incredible bond with the kids from my own hometown that carried me through my senior year and in some cases has lasted to this day. My husband was one of those awesome friends. He was literally hiding in my own backyard.

Truth: I had a HUGE crush on the head of the camp. I think everyone did. *grin*  He looks about as young as I do (bottom picture) but at the time he was twenty-seven and while it was never a romance, he was an incredible pen pal for my last year in high school. He lived in NYC, had an avocado plant growing in his window and was artistic and worldly in a way I hadn't really experienced in my small town.  He reminded me often that I was an amazing and talented person. To this day I sign my name, whether it's autographing books or signing birthday cards with a little graphic that looks like a sun burst. It was something he shared with me in a letter because he thought that I was the kind of person who was lit from within. That mattered to me. It stuck with me. Twenty plus years later, I'm reminded that the small kindness of people can have a long reaching impact. We lost touch when I went to college, but someday I would love the chance to say thank you for his kindness.

Truth: True love found me at NLC. And not the older counselor crush kind. I mentioned my husband was at this camp. We'd known of each other since kindergarten. My dad was his soccer coach. We'd danced once at a Jr. High School dance. We argued politics day and night. I was a hard core liberal and he was a hard core conservative. Our arguments went from social studies class, into english and straight on through to lunch. God I hated him. Not as a person, but as a irritating thorn in my side. And then we went to camp together.

Just like me, he got to reinvent himself. He was able to view himself through the eyes of strangers. He relaxed a little and I noticed that he had a heart behind all of his political bravado. He was fun and in ten days he some how became one of my very best friends. We didn't date--it wasn't romantic. But we vowed that for our finally year of high school we were going to replicate the way things were at NLC. We were going to have a year with the same kind of fun. And we did. We stayed close to the rest of the NLCers and we surrounded ourselves with friends who wanted the same kind of thing in their own lives. We had an amazing year. Those friends are still my friends today. I love them. My hubby and I grew our friendship the good old fashioned way--over time. We went to the senior prom together as friends. And then our freshman year in college we realized how much we missed each other and started dating. And of course you know how it ends...

 This was us at our senior prom--with so many of those special friends.

High school graduation with our future best man.

Our first date at a West Point dance.

Back to West Point again for our wedding.

Truth: 20 years and three boys later--I love him more than I did at NLC. 

Truth: The best things happen at sleep away camp.

Have you ever been to sleep away camp? Did you want to go and never got a chance? Or would you have hated it? Best camp story you've got? Still friends with any campers? Favorite camp book? I'm dying to dig into CAMP BOYFRIEND. It's next up on my night stand!!!!


  1. I am loving these stories of summer love that often grew into the more permanent kind. Thanks for sharing, Kim. And what a cute couple you and your hubby made then, and now!

  2. OMGosh this post MADE ME CRY, Kimmy! WTH??? Yes, I went to sleep away camp. Yes I made LOTS of friends, but I only talk to one of them now :( Yes, I got to reinvent myself a bit. I did find romance, but it wasn't totally what I wanted and it was fun for the summer. I will never forget sleep away camp. AND, my oldest is just a year out of going, we are already looking and he's visiting one next week for three days! I can't wait to hear what he thinks and for him to go and start making those most awesome memories, like I did!

    1. *heart squish* I find it so weird, yet wonderful when I see my kids hit some of those same milestones that defined me. <3

  3. Oh, happy tears, Kim! What a lovely story. Just reminds me how much I can't wait to read your next book:)

  4. ((((hugs))))) Love you, girlfriend! <3

  5. terrific pictures, great feel-good story. Brightened a rainy morning in Maine.

  6. You guys look fantastic together! Great story...

  7. Wow! What a great love story! So glad you made it to sleep-away camp!

  8. I wrote a short story about my first girlfriend. Guess where I met her?

  9. I love your love story, Kim! Camp happens to be one of my favorite places on the planet, even though 75% of my sleepaway camp visits were at girl scout camp, so little chance to crush or make truces with future husbands :-P

    *sigh* *dreams happily of camp*

  10. I didn't go to camp. But I did study abroad. It was fascinating to watch how people changed or reinvented themselves (me too. I chopped my hair. When I got off the plane, my mom walked right past me).

  11. The summer before my senior year, I went to writing camp at Susquehanna. It was for two weeks and such a life changing experience. My first taste in reinventing myself before college. Your posts makes me think of this.

  12. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. Last time my kids are went to the 2 week sleepaway camps and they enjoy and learned many things!


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