The Alumni Spotlight gives us the opportunity to catch up with a Tamarack alum, hear about where they are now, and learn how Tamarack Camps shaped them. Read below about how Sammi Cutler spent nearly a decade of her life at camp. Sammi is part of a multi-generational Tamarack family.
When did you attend Tamarack Camps? What villages or programs were you part of?
I attended Tamarack from 1998 until 2009. I was a camper in Fishman, Sheruth, Berman 7, Pioneer, Specialty, Western, and Alaska. I was staff in Fishman, Ruach, and Specialty.
What lessons did you learn from camp?
I learned everything I know at camp. I learned how to walk quickly to get the first shower and also how to not mind going days without showering. I learned sports, water skiing, and other activities, like how to make friends and what to do when you have a crush. I learned to sleep with 15 girls in a cabin as a camper and a counselor. In my years as staff, I learned patience, responsibility, and the art of dealing with pre-teen girls.
What are you up to now personally and/or professionally?
I went to the University of Michigan for undergrad and Grad school. Now, I am married, living in Chicago with my husband and puppy, Pumpkin. I do fundraising for a non-profit and talk to my camp friends everyday!
How did camp impact how you live your life today?
I feel like the luckiest person to have gone to Tamarack for 11 years. I have the greatest group of friends thanks to Tamarack. Right before the Covid-19 breakout, we all went to Mexico to celebrate our 30th birthdays together, and that is because Tamarack! My Tamarack Trues are the realest and best friends I have. Tamarack also had a huge impact on my Jewish identity. I chose to get my MSW so that I could work at a Jewish non-profit and help our Jewish community. I worked at the Federation in Chicago for over 6 years and care so deeply about the future of the Jewish world.
Why is Tamarack Camps “The Greatest Place On Earth?”
Tamarack allows every camper to be themselves and find their place in this world. Where else can you sing along to an accordion, go to HBR, get locked up in jail, go on the blob, learn to stack in Euchre, or see someone fall across the stage in color war. Is there any other place in the world where a simple note of a song brings you back to the blue and white outfits at the Zaks Amp shabbat song session, or your arm burning during Saturday morning services? Tamarack creates something that isn’t able to be replicated anywhere else. Camp teaches campers and counselors alike a set of skills that prepares them for the real world. I loved watched my friends grow and succeed at camp, like when my friend achieved her lifelong goal of becoming color war captain or the talented T5 was formed. Plus, where else could you make a totally inappropriate joke snowball out of control to be the talk of degel or talk about dooty and not get weird looks?
Was there a staff member that made a lasting impact on you and why?
My Alaska 2006 staff, led by Michelle Hutton were the best staff and friends, anyone could have asked for. They made sure our trip was the best summer of our life. Even when we had to hike out of the Kesugi trail early, they made every second of the trip feel like the best adventure, never knowing what exciting experiences were next. They treated us like their equals, giving us true responsibility and space to grow into the young adults we quickly became.
What’s your favorite camp memory?
I can’t pinpoint one favorite camp memory because every year at camp was amazing, and dare I say, better than the last. Oswalds Bear Farm was a major highlight of the 2009 summer but my favorite memories are the ones sitting around: at the beach playing games, getting dressed up for shabbat, eating meals, just spending time with my friends and the bonds that were created. When I think about what I miss the most, it is the community that camp creates– singing together for shabbat, fighting with the trues (co-staff) of who is going to work bottom of the blob and who is going to HBR, and the laughs that distracted us from our sleep deprived minds.
Favorite trip: Alaska ’06
Favorite program/theme day: Foxfire
Dream Tamarack reunion idea: All of my trues meeting up at camp for a weekend, getting to do all the things we miss the most (but with air conditioning, alcohol, and clean mattresses)
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